Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne – 70 years ago – on the sudden death, in the early hours of 6 February 1952, of her father, King George VI.
Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, were 6,000 miles away on a tour of the Commonwealth, having reached Kenya. They had just started their stay at a remote lodge, Treetops Hotel, as part of a five-day wildlife safari.
Knowing nothing about the King’s death, on 6 February, the young couple travelled on to Sagana Lodge, given to them by the Kenyan people as a wedding present on their marriage five years before.
It was at Sangana that Elizabeth received the sad and momentous news.
Elizabeth had travelled to Kenya as a Princess but now returned to Britain as monarch. She was just 25.
To commemorate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – marking 70 years since her accession – we have protected six places connected with The Queen.
These listings help illuminate some of the significant social, technical, cultural and infrastructural developments that have taken place in Britain during The Queen’s reign.
1. Imperial Hotel, Stroud, Gloucestershire
With its striking columned arcade, this impressive hotel was built by Benjamin Bucknall (1833-1895), who worked extensively in the local area.
The hotel was designed to cater for travellers on the Great Western Railway – many from London and the Midlands – and was the first building encountered on leaving the station.
The Imperial’s proprietors took advantage of the advent of the railways in the mid-19th century – which opened up tourism in Britain – publicising the new hotel with newspaper adverts in a bid to attract visitors from a wide area.
Princess Elizabeth (soon to be Queen Elizabeth II in 1953) made a brief royal visit to Stroud when she was 23.
Elizabeth visited the Imperial Hotel – which had just undergone refurbishment – receiving a civic welcome by local dignitaries there while local Red Cross junior cadets formed a guard of honour.
2. All Saints Church, Shard End, Birmingham
All Saints Church was the first church built in Birmingham after the Second World War.
Many churches there had been damaged by air raids, and the War Damage Commission provided money to rebuild All Saints, but on a different site – a post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the city where many of the population had migrated from the inner city.
With its subtle craftsmanship, the church was designed by local architect Frank J. Osborne (1886-1959), responsible for many civic and industrial buildings in Birmingham.
The church features sculptural works by William Bloye, such as the image of Christ pictured and an arched doorway with a carved stone frieze depicting a crown and two crossed palm leaves.
The church was consecrated in 1955 on All Saints Day (1 November). It is a mark of the church’s cultural importance that it was selected as one of the destinations for a royal visit to Birmingham, with The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visiting on 3 November.
3. M62 Motorway County Boundary Markers
The construction of the 7-mile cross-Pennine section of the M62 motorway – linking the Manchester area with Leeds/Bradford and Britain’s highest motorway – was a triumph of civil engineering. It was the first motorway to use embankments and cuttings to avoid the problem of drifting snow, influencing the construction of motorways in the future.
The two markers used the heraldic insignia of the Red Rose of the House of Lancaster and the White Rose of the House of York, symbolising the historic rivalry between the two counties dating back to the War of the Roses (1455-85) – a series of civil wars fought over control of the English throne.
Placing the markers near each other is equally symbolic, signifying modern common purpose and friendship.
4. Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, Hampshire
In the 1980s, Hampshire County Council decided to construct a purpose-built archive and library, the collection having previously been housed in disparate buildings since the 18th century.
Hampshire County Council’s Architect’s Department was led by Sir Colin Stansfield Smith (1932-2013), and the Record Office was among the first of many of the Department’s noted big-budget public buildings.
The building is an important example of late-20th century archive repository design, including environmental control of the archive’s strong rooms and increased energy consciousness.
5. Sun Pavilion and Sun Colonnade, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
In 1571, a mineral spring – Tewit Well – was discovered in Harrogate. The town became known as the English’ spa’ – the first use of the term in Britain.
In the 19th century, the health benefits of the town’s many mineral springs made it a popular spa destination for wealthy Victorian visitors who flocked to ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing. Valle Gardens was laid out around 1880, creating a tranquil walk close to the springs.
The Sun Pavilion and Sun Colonnade, with its octagonal entertainment space top-lit by an Art Deco stained glass dome – were part of a major spa development scheme intended to make Harrogate one of the finest spas in Europe. The complex was designed as a place for rest and refreshment after exercising or taking the spa waters.
By the 1980s, the Sun Pavilion and Sun Colonnade had fallen into disrepair and were under threat, along with much of the Valley Gardens.
From 1986, the ‘Friends of Valley Gardens’ group – formed after public outrage at the local council’s proposal to create a car park on the site of the gardens – led a successful 12-year campaign to restore the Pavilion and the gardens, supported by high profile names such as environmental activist David Bellamy.
In December 1998, the Sun Pavilion and Sun Colonnade were officially re-opened by The Queen, who watched a tea dance in the newly restored building.
6. Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, Greater London
Local authorities around the country were significant players in terms of urban planning and design during the reconstruction of Britain after the Second World War.
There was a drive to provide better municipal services for the public, with many urban centres building ‘cultural quarters’ that included libraries, concert halls, and theatres, enjoying a great revival. These civic buildings were often integrated with other services, such as police stations.
The Queen’s Theatre is illustrative of this new thinking. It was combined with a telephone exchange, library, fire station and municipal offices to create the nucleus of a civic centre located in a green setting.
With its severe horizontal and vertical geometry, dark brick and smoked glazing, the building is a stylistically strong example of 1970s theatre design.
With its floor-to-ceiling windows, the foyer was always designed to be used as a social space.
The theatre has had few alterations over the decades, exterior or interior. The auditorium retains its original banks of 508 folding seats, upholstered in traditional red plush fabric. The dressing rooms still have their original fixtures, such as side-lit mirrors and costume storage.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited The Queen’s Theatre in 2003 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of its predecessor, also called Queen’s (closed in 1970 and demolished).
This letter was the first professional theatre company in the country to be set up by a local authority and was established in 1953, the year The Queen was crowned.
By Nicky Hughes.