As Sedberghians prepared to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III we had a hunt in the Archives to look at how Sedbergh School has marked the coronations of previous monarchs. The School’s collection of historic Sedberghian Magazines provides great insight into past festivities.

In preparation for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 the boys of Sedbergh School were given two days of holiday. The first day was spent in and around Sedbergh and included such excitements as a treacle bun eating race, a bicycle parade and a Rifle Corps parade. Throughout the day boys and masters ferried flammable material up Winder. At 10pm their labours were rewarded by the lighting of a large bonfire on Winder accompanied by fireworks. The School and town came together on the fellside to sing God Save the King. The following day, boys had complete freedom to roam the fells, swim in the river and entertain themselves however they chose. A ‘royal command’ arrived decreeing that the boys be given a full extra week holiday during their summer vacation.  

Sedberghian celebrations for the coronation of George V in 1911 were due to follow a similar pattern to the events marking the previous monarch’s ascension to the throne. Sadly, these plans were thwarted by Cumbrian weather. The events of the day were recorded in the school magazine:

‘The bad weather continued for the coronation festivities. For those here it was a most disappointing time: to get up early in the morning to finish decorations in real Sedbergh weather, to have a wind continuing all day to blow them down, to have rain and mist descending in time to prevent the lighting of the Bonfire was very sad: that evening rumours were flying thick and fast – that the Bonfire was to be lit with no spectators, then we hoped that there would be a Bonfire and spectators, then on a false alarm we rushed up Winder to find spectators, but no Bonfire: that was the greatest loss of all, for the sight of the Bonfires on the many hills around has always been a most impressive spectacle.’

Sedberghian 1902 coronation poem

During the national coronation festivities of 1937, George VI granted honours to several Sedberghians including Major Gen E. N. Broadbent C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.D.C., who was made a K.B.E. During the coronation proceedings Lieut. Colonel R.W. R. Scott, Yorkshire Hussars rode in the Procession and H. C. Benson of the household cavalry was a Gold Staff Officer in the Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. Many British people gathered round television sets of family or neighbours to watch the event. Not so the boys of Sedbergh School. The Sedberghian records that boys ‘sat eagerly and attentively round our wirelesses in studies and Common Rooms, appreciating, not only through the ear but through the quickening of imagination, the glory and greatness of the occasion.’

On the weekend of 6th May our pupils were offered a long exeat opportunity and so ‘normal’ School life paused briefly. Pupils staying in School over the weekend celebrated in style. We’d love to hear how Old Sedberghians marked the coronation of King Charles III.

Katy de la Riviere, School Archivist

Follow the Archive on twitter @SedberghArchive