With the coronation of HM King Charles III on the 6th May, we reflect on some royal visits to Bracknell during the twentieth century using the records of the Bracknell Development Corporation. Bracknell had many royal visitors, including HM Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince and Princess Richard of Gloucester. It was also visited by members of overseas royal families.
Royal visits in the 1950s
On 19th April 1955 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited Bracknell where he met Corporation personnel and important local representatives at Farley Hall, the Corporation’s head office, accompanied by Sir Lancelot Keay, Chairman of the Bracknell Development Corporation (Reading Mercury 22 April 1955, ref. NT/B/G26/1/4).
Prince Philip is seen in the image above, speaking with B E Scott, Chairman of Easthampstead Rural District Council, Bracknell Forest Council’s predecessor.
The royal visit was meticulously planned and those selected to meet Prince Philip were sent an official invitation months ahead of the event.
During the visit, Prince Philip toured three factories including Fluidrive Engineering Company Ltd in the Western Industrial Area alongside the Directors of Fluidrive and met Fluidrive factory workers (Bracknell Times, 22nd April 1955 ref. NTB/G26/1/4).
Prince Philip also laid the foundation stone for new the Priestwood Church, planted a tree, and opened the new pavilion for the Bracknell Cricket Club which had been built by the Corporation (Reading Standard 22nd April 1955 ref. NT/B/G26/1/4).
Queen Elizabeth II visited Bracknell district many times. In 1940 the then HRH Princess Elizabeth visited Wellington College, Crowthorne with HM King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
Queen Elizabeth II’s first official visit to Bracknell was on 25th June 1962. Accompanied by Prince Philip, she met Corporation staff members, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, representatives from local, parish and county authorities at Farley Hall, the Corporation’s head office.
During their visit they toured some of the Corporation’s housing including meeting the residents of 8 Drummond Close, alongside Sir Ambrose Flux Dundas, the Corporation’s Chairman (Reading Standard, 29th June 1962. ref. NTB/G/26/1/9).
It was a busy day, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip also visited the newly built Meteorological Office in Bracknell’s Western Industrial Area (Bracknell News, 28th June 1962. ref. NTB/G/26/1/9).
Silver Jubilee 1978
In July 1978 Queen Elizabeth II visited Bracknell again in celebration of her Silver Jubilee. During the visit she opened the Silver Jubilee Gardens in Bracknell Town Centre alongside Sir Jack Hughes, Chairman of the Bracknell Development Corporation.
A commemorative stone was laid in celebration for the event as seen in the photograph above (ref. NTB/G/7/29). The engraving of the stone was carefully discussed between the Corporation and Buckingham Palace. The final wording of the stone was chosen personally by the Queen (ref. NT/B/G/25/5).
A select few were invited to meet the Queen during her visit including the heads of Bracknell District Council. It was a special event for the residents of Bracknell and the larger district, with many queuing to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty (Bracknell Times July 27 1978 ref. NTB/G/26/1/28).
Queen Elizabeth II also toured Bracknell Town Centre, opened Glaisher House, visited the Meteorological Office and opened the Royal Meteorological Society exhibition.
Visits from international royalty
Due to its proximity to Windsor and as New Towns were intriguing to worldwide audiences, Bracknell had several international royal visitors during the twentieth century. These visits are not well known, although they deserve to be.
On 16th June 1976 the then Crown Prince and later Emperor of Japan, His Imperial Highness Prince Akihito, and Crown Princess Michiko, later the Empress, visited Bracknell, including touring the town centre alongside Corporation personnel and local representatives and meeting residents (Bracknell Post, 17 June 1976 ref. NT/B/G/26/1/24).
During the visit the Crown Prince and Crown Princess visited Winchester House enjoying a bird’s eye view of Bracknell from the top floor. They also toured one of the Corporation’s newly built houses and attended an art exhibition by Japanese school children which was held at the Corporation’s Exhibition Hall on Broadway.
The royal couple found the visit interesting (NTB/G/25/13). The Crown Prince and Crown Princess were among many important visitors to Bracknell during the twentieth century.
Accessing the collection
Please be advised that the Bracknell Development Corporation collection is currently being catalogued and may be unavailable for order until the end of the year.