Retro: South Yorkshire always enjoys a Royal visit

The Queen inspects the Guard of Honour of the Hallamshire Batalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, at Sheffield Town Hall - October 1954

The Queen inspects the Guard of Honour of the Hallamshire Batalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, at Sheffield Town Hall - October 1954

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From watching children in mass formation at Hillsborough stadium in 1954 to giving out Maundy Money at Sheffield Cathedral this week, the Queen has enjoyed many official visits to Sheffield, South Yorkshire and the Peak District over the years.

Here we look back at many of those visits in a Retro picture special, which captures the crowds who flocked to see the Queen over the years, often accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.

She’s been down a pit, visited factories, watched youngsters in a range of cultural and sports events, attended dinners at the Cutlers’ Hall, been to hospitals and received gifts including any number of posies.

On her last visit, in 2010, she visited the Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility at Catcliffe, donning a special pair of protective glasses to try her hand at virtually driving a JCB digger.

The Queen, a keen horse-lover, has also been to Doncaster quite a few times to watch the famous St Leger race, including for her first visit as Queen in 1952, although that was before her coronation the following year.

One of the photographs on these pages depicts the historic moment when the proclamation that Queen Elizabeth II would be the next monarch was read outside Sheffield Town Hall by the Lord Mayor, Ald. TW Bridgland.

He was heard by a silent crowd of 5,000 on February 8, 1952.

The proclamation was read out all over the Empire after the death of the Queen’s father, King George VI, who died in the night of February 5-6 while she was away in Kenya.

The first Royal visit proper by the Queen and Prince Philip took place two years later, in October 1954, when they spent two days in South Yorkshire.

They watched 3,270 youngsters go through formations they had practised for months at Hillsborough Stadium, creating the words ‘welcome to Sheffield’ and a Union Jack.

In Barnsley they met 32 local people, including a miner, a glassworker and schoolchildren and were presented with a miniature pit tub containing a piece of coal from a Barnsley seam and a miner’s lamp.

The Mayor, Ald A E McVie, was reported to have told the Royal couple: “Here’s a piece of ‘coil’. If there’s a shortage at the palace you’d better burn it.”

After stopping only minutes in Wombwell and Wath, the Queen and Duke called in at Rotherham Town Hall to meet representatives of the local community and appear on the balcony before travelling to Sheffield.

Following the Hillsborough stadium event, the Royal couple toured the giant River Don steelworks, before visiting Firth Hall at the University of Sheffield, which was celebrating its golden jubilee.

There they saw a masque – a play with music – on The Birth of Steel performed by students and the Queen made a speech.

She said she and her husband had greatly enjoyed their visit, adding: “We have seen examples of the energy, of the imagination, and of the high standards and high quality in industrial production for which Yorkshire has long been famous.”

Earlier at Sheffield Town Hall the Royal party was met by the Hallamshire Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment and a 21-gun salute when they arrived for lunch.

Huge crowds waited many hours to see the Royal visitors everywhere they went.

An estimated 17,000 people queued for hours at the town hall the day after the visit just to see an autographed portrait of the Queen and to look at floral displays at the Cutlers’ Hall, where the Royal party attended a formal evening reception before they left late in the evening on the Royal Train.

Royal visits can still attract a crowd but it’s fair to say that 1954 visit probably generated the most excitement because of the chance to welcome the new monarch to the area.

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