Ridgewell English Oak
This is one of The Tree Council’s 60 educational tree planting schemes with children that
were inspired by the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Each tree, provided by The Tree
Council, was chosen and planted by volunteers in the community.
The Ridgewell of 1953 was, in many ways,
a very different place from the village we know today.
However then, as now, there was a great desire to celebrate a royal occasion in style, and planning for the Coronation started early in this picturesque village in north-west Essex, near the Suffolk border.
It was on 1st October 1952 that a parish meeting was held in the schoolroom (now St Lawrence Lodge East) to set things in motion. Suggestions were made for raising funds, including a house-to-house collection, whist drives, collection boxes in the village shops, a concert by the children and a competition.
Other fundraising events included a jumble sale (held in the Congregational Chapel schoolroom) which was so well attended that not all of the prospective buyers were able to enter the sale room when it opened.
There was a New Year’s Eve Social, which was very popular with the young people, and a radiogram was borrowed both to provide music and so that the revellers could hear the New Year chimes being broadcast.
It has now become a custom in Ridgewell to ring the New Year in by congregating on the village green using hand bells. We are also very lucky, again due to very generous villagers and fund-raising events, to have our St Laurence Church bells back in situ, and these too can be heard ringing in the New Year.
Alan Pick, who was just eight at the time of the Coronation and lived in the village, remembers: “My mother watched the ceremony on the black and white television and we had many ladies in the house as we were the only ones to own a TV.” He also remembers his “father placing flags on the car which would fly away as soon as we went over 35 mph!”
His mother bought a miniature version of the coach and horses the Queen rode in during the Coronation and this memento sat on the mantelpiece for many years.
In 2013 we celebrated 60 glorious years of the Queen’s reign by planting an oak tree on our village green. This sits proudly alongside other commemorative horse chestnut trees that were planted for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, a wooden seat for King George V’s Silver Jubilee and two oak trees planted in 2012, also to mark the Jubilee.
On Wednesday 24th April at 1.30pm villagers, parish councillors, the Reverend Michael Hewitt, Headteacher Denise Madden, class teacher Nicky Sharp and children from Ridgewell Primary School met on the green to witness the Diamond Jubilee tree planting.
While the sun shone, Parish Council Chairman Nick Rouse welcomed everyone and spoke of the way in which previous royal jubilees have been marked. The children read poems and the Reverend Hewitt gave a blessing.
Photos were taken by the local press, and children and villagers were given the opportunity to place soil around the tree.
Among the many villagers present was Joy Dunn, who proudly brought along her Coronation mug, given to her by the parish when she was 11 years old.
Directly after the tree planting, a small celebration was held in the Congregational Chapel, with tea, cakes, biscuits and squash for the children. A running slide show and music from 1953 were played and there was a wonderful photographic display of village life, provided by the Ridgewell History Society.
Our thanks go to the history society and to the Ridgewell Jubilee Committee for detailed accounts of the Coronation celebrations.
Photographs - top to bottom:
- 1. Joy Dunn with her Coronation mug.
- 2. Nick Rouse prepares the site for the Jubilee tree.
- 3. The community gathers for the ceremony.
- 4. Oscar Sharp and Ami-Mae Barkness plant the oak.