70 years on: When Norfolk celebrated the Festival of Britain

Princess Elizabeth visits the city to open the Norwich Festival, accompanied by the Lord Mayor, Eric

Princess Elizabeth visits the city to open the Norwich Festival, accompanied by the Lord Mayor, Eric Hinde, in 1951. - Credit: Norwich 1945 to 1960: A journey from Austerity to Prosperity by Frances and Michael Holmes

It was the dawn of a new decade. The war had been over for six years. The country was looking forward not back… and it was time to celebrate.

The Festival of Britain was taking place in May and June of 1951 and Norwich was one of the cities chosen to hold its own festival beginning on June 18 when it was opened by Princess Elizabeth from the balcony at City Hall.

ROYAL FAMILYPrincess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth) travelling in car down Gaol Hill (Guildhall), cro

ROYAL FAMILY Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth) travelling in car down Gaol Hill (Guildhall), crowd scene Dated: 18th June 1951 - Credit: Archant Library

ROYAL FAMILYPrincess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth) receiving bouquet of flowers from young girl. Lor

ROYAL FAMILY Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth) receiving bouquet of flowers from young girl. Lord Mayor present. Norwich Festival Dated: 18th June 1951 - Credit: Archant Library

A huge crowd gathered and listened as she said: “I am very glad to be here today in this ancient and lovely city of Norwich. I have a great deal of affection for Norfolk, born out of many days amidst the peace of its countryside, and it gives me great pleasure to come now to its capital.

“When Norwich was chosen as one of the main centres of the Festival of the Arts the city was paid a well-deserved compliment, for its place in the story of the arts of our country is in many ways unique.”

ROYAL FAMILYPRINCESS ELIZABETH (NOW QUEEN ELIZABETH II)Princess Elizabeth proceeding in car onto

ROYAL FAMILY PRINCESS ELIZABETH (NOW QUEEN ELIZABETH II) Princess Elizabeth proceeding in car onto Gentleman's Walk from Gaol Hill, heading for Castle Museum Norwich Festival Dated: 18th June 1951 - Credit: Archant Library

The book of the Norwich Festival

The Book of the Norwich Festival. - Credit: Archant Library

Snap the dragon and the Whifflers clearing the way for the festival celebrations in 1951

Snap the dragon and the Whifflers clearing the way for the festival celebrations in 1951, passing by the Guildhall, Norwich Photograph is dated June 1951. - Credit: Archant Library

The Princess spoke of Crome and Cotman, the Norwich School, and the generosity of Russell Colman gifting his collection of works to the city.


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“Although the fine arts are rightly given prominent place in your festival there is much else besides – for there is sport and entertainment to suit all tastes.

ROYAL FAMILYPRINCESS ELIZABETH ARRIVING AT CITY HALL BEFORE OPENING NORWICH FESTIVALDATED 18TH

ROYAL FAMILY PRINCESS ELIZABETH ARRIVING AT CITY HALL BEFORE OPENING NORWICH FESTIVAL DATED 18TH JUNE 1951 PLATE P1904 - Credit: Archant Library

Norwich Festival book

Norwich Festival book cover - Credit: Archant Library

Roman soldiers march back into Norwich in this scene from 1951.

Roman soldiers march back into Norwich in this scene from 1951. The Lloyds Bank still retains a key location in Norwich, a close neighbour has become Cafe Nero. This photograph capture the spirit of the occasion as the city's youth organisations staged a street pageant during the Festival of Britain with the theme " Norwich Through the Ages " Dated 1951. - Credit: Archant Library

“I am especially glad to learn that among the great variety of events the International Pavillon d’Or cruise, of which my husband is patron this year, will be sailing up the River Yare to visit the city,” said the Princess.

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“It is its first visit to our shores and I cannot imagine a better place to see England for the yachtsmen will see beauty, life and colour. If there is one spirit among others which they will find enthroned in Norwich it is possibly the gay spirit of Elizabethan England.”

Princess Elizabeth chatting to one of the clickers (leather cutters) at Edwards & Holmes Ltd’s facto

Princess Elizabeth chatting to one of the clickers (leather cutters) at Edwards & Holmes Ltd’s factory in June 1951. Also pictured, extreme left, Geoffrey Holmes, managing director of the company. ref c12737 ( Queen ) - Credit: Archant Library

Princess Elizabeth at Fras Hinde silk works 1951

Princess Elizabeth at Fras Hinde silk works 1951. - Credit: Archant Library

Princess Elizabeth at St Mary's Silk Mills of the Francis Hinde factory in 1951

Princess Elizabeth at St Mary's Silk Mills of the Francis Hinde factory in 1951. Date: June 18, 1951 - Credit: Archant Library

She added: “I hope they will, for it is a very fine spirit, and it is in the hope that it will flourish here and bring happiness to all that I have much pleasure in declaring open your Norwich Festival.”

We described at the time how the scene in the market had seen no parallel since the King and Queen attended the opening of City Hall in 1938.

Front page of the EDP 19 June 1952

Princess Elizabeth at City Festival - EDP June 19, 1952. Explore the EDP archives at localrecall.co.uk. - Credit: Archant Library

While thousands enjoyed the Norwich Festival Carnival at Eaton Park in 1951. These happy youngsters

While thousands enjoyed the Norwich Festival Carnival at Eaton Park in 1951. These happy youngsters enjoyed dancing the Cumberland Long Eight at the Festival Party organised by the Norfolk and Norwich District of the English Folk Dance and Song Society at Town Close House. - Credit: Archant Library

Princess Elizabeth had arrived in Norwich by train and during her six-hour stay in the city opened the new Colman Art Galleries at the Castle Museum, lunched with the Lord Mayor, Eric Hinde, at the Assembly House, toured the Cathedral and saw something of the city’s silk and shoe industries.

ROYAL FAMILYPRINCESS ELIZABETH ARRIVING AT CITY HALL BEFORE OPENING NORWICH FESTIVALDATED 18TH

ROYAL FAMILY PRINCESS ELIZABETH ARRIVING AT CITY HALL BEFORE OPENING NORWICH FESTIVAL DATED 18TH JUNE 1951 PLATE P1904 - Credit: Archant Library

Princess Elizabeth at the Norwich Festival.

Princess Elizabeth at the Norwich Festival. - Credit: Archant Library

It was The Assembly House which became The Festival House  - home to many events.

That was the start of the celebrations, large and small,  in the city and across the towns and villages of Norfolk. It really was party-time involving people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Young entertainers eager to make their entrance to the enclosure at Eaton Park where a festival fete

Young entertainers eager to make their entrance to the enclosure at Eaton Park where a festival fete was held. - Credit: Archant Library

They all came together to celebrate the Festival of Britain… and a prosperous and peaceful future.

We will be taking a look at just some of the happenings over the next few weeks and if you have any memories or photographs of events we would love to hear from you. Drop me a line at derek.james2013@gmail.com

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