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West Berkshire memories: 50 years ago the Queen paid a visit to Newbury



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On May 26, 1972, Queen Elizabeth II arrived by train at Newbury Racecourse Station, for her first visit to the town centre and to St Bartholomew's Grammar School, followed by an afternoon visit to the Institute for Research into Animal Diseases at Compton.

When the Queen arrived at the station she was greeted by 170 schoolchildren, aged six to 14, from the Greenham Common US airbase waving Union flags.

The Queen was driven from the station via Hambridge Road, King's Road and Bear Lane, then into Cheap Street, where she was met by Mayor of Newbury Wilfred Cannings.

Walking through Market Place accompanied by Wilfred Cannings
Walking through Market Place accompanied by Wilfred Cannings
The Queen greeted members of the public in Market Place Newbury
The Queen greeted members of the public in Market Place Newbury
The Queen signs the visitors book, with Mayor of Newbury Wilfred Cannings
The Queen signs the visitors book, with Mayor of Newbury Wilfred Cannings
Driving through the town centre
Driving through the town centre

The Queen arrived by train and then drove along Bear Lane into Cheap Street, where the mayor and other officials were waiting to greet her.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News at the time, Mr Cannings, whose grandson Phil is now the newspaper's photographer, said it was "the most wonderful day anyone could imagine".

Mr Cannings said: "It's hard to express how I felt. It was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion and the Mayoress and I will treasure it for ever and a day."

Mr Cannings said he had butterflies not knowing quite was he was in for, "but I felt at ease immediately she stepped out of the car".

The mayor accompanied the Queen round Market Place, where she talked to members of the public, before stepping up onto a dais outside the town council offices to meet other officials and sign the visitors book.

While she was there the Queen was presented with a posy by John Rankin School pupil, eleven-year-old Alison Charman.

The Queen then walked through Mansion House Street to her car which was parked in Bartholomew Street opposite St Nicolas Church.

The Newbury Weekly News front page from June 1, 1972
The Newbury Weekly News front page from June 1, 1972

According to the newspaper account at the time, the first person she talked to was Mrs Joyce Ball from Howard Road, Newbury who said she was doing her shopping and 'couldn't resist popping into the Market to see the Queen'.

Other lucky members of the public who the Queen stopped to talk to included Vera Dowsett from Cold Ash and Helen James from Newbury who said she had a 'woman-to-woman chat about the problems of shopping'.

Eight-year-old Ann Dennis, from Queen's Road, Newbury, said the Queen had smiled at her and 'I thought she was nice'.

Meeting staff at St Bart's
Meeting staff at St Bart's
The Queen advises St Bart's pupil Gareth Nash (in swimming trunks) to put on extra clothes because of the cold wind and rain
The Queen advises St Bart's pupil Gareth Nash (in swimming trunks) to put on extra clothes because of the cold wind and rain
Talking with the boys at St Bart's
Talking with the boys at St Bart's
The Queen chatted to boys at St Bartholomew's Grammar School
The Queen chatted to boys at St Bartholomew's Grammar School

The Queen's next stop was St Bartholomew's Grammar School. She travelled there via St John's roundabout, the Andover Road and into Buckingham Road.

After the formal welcome by head prefect Robert Cripps, the Queen was shown around the school hall where staff and students had built a large model illustrating the geology and wildlife of the Berkshire Downs.

She also walked across the playing fields and saw various sport and outdoor activities.

She was presented with a commemorative dish by the youngest pupil at the school, Peter Morgan, aged 11.

The Queen was joined at St Bart's by the then Secretary of State for Education and Science Margaret Thatcher.

After an hour at the school, onlookers had another chance to wave at the royal car as the Queen was driven along Enborne Road and Pound Street to the centre of town along Bartholomew Street and Northbrook Street before taking the A4 to Thatcham.

She had lunch in Bucklebury with the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire the Hon David Smith before heading to Compton in the afternoon for her visit to the research institute.



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