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The Royal Visit to Chivers in Histon and Cambridge on Thursday 20th October 1955
The Royal Train on Thursday 20th October 1955 conveyed HM The Queen and Prince Philip from London, (probably King’s Cross) to Cambridge. The Cambridge Daily News reported that:
“A tremendous welcome greeted the Queen as she arrived at Cambridge station. Crowds had been waiting in the rain for over two hours and school children were tired of the delay. The glass roof of the station platform sprang a leak and a man was sent aloft to cover it with green waterproof. Exactly on time at 11 o’clock, the train drew in and Her Majesty stepped gracefully onto the platform. The women onlookers gasped as they took in the details of her dress, a fitting emerald green coat with black fur collar, green hat and black handbag.
“A crowd of several thousand massed in Cambridge Market Place as the Royal motor procession moved slowly towards the Guildhall. The weather did not appreciate the importance of the occasion as rain poured down steadily most of the day. The Queen looked radiant as the Mayor (Alderman E. Halnan) presented her with an Electryte Cardiograph adapted by a local firm to monitor the hearts of her thoroughbred racehorses. She thanked him warmly saying ‘This ingenious machine will be put to good use’. Then she made an appearance on the balcony, waving to the crowd, who cheered back.
“But there was more to follow. The Royal couple drove through the rain to Newnham College, where they inspected an undergraduate's room. Then on to Trinity College, where trumpeters on the top of the Great Gate sounded a fanfare, and the College Choir sang madrigals from the Minstrels' Gallery during the lunch for 275 guests in the dining hall.
“The main event of the day was the opening of the new School of Veterinary Medicine in Madingley Road but there was heavy rain as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrived for the ceremonial opening.
“The final tour of the day was to Girton College, where among those introduced to the Queen were members of the recently founded New Hall, the third of the Cambridge women's Colleges.“
Then it was time to leave for Chivers at Histon and the train waiting there. Great efforts were put in to complete the new local main sewage system before the Queen and Prince Philip arrived since the roads had been opened up and needed to be put back in place in time.
As the Chivers Magazine at Christmas 1955 subsequently reported:
“For months our builders had been busy painting and repairing the factory so that it should look its best for the Royal visitors. Flags and bunting decorated the factory and on Thursday 20th October all was gay despite the rain.
“Crowds assembled in the roadways, both inside and outside the factory, in cheerful expectation. Just in time, the weather cleared.”
This visit was by car along a route for as many people as possible to see them, from Girton via Park Lane, Histon High Street and Station Road to Chivers, who held the Royal Appointment, where there was another reception – that by the Chivers’ staff as the Queen drove through their factory. The weather by then was dry.
There the black royal limousine with a supporting saloon slowly toured the factory, but without the royal party getting out to make any special inauguration or similar.
The roadway in the factory was lined by the workers, especially the girls from the factory production and the Front Office. Credit: Chivers Magazine via HIVSoc.
The Queen and Prince Philip waving to the Chivers’ crowd. Credit: Chivers Magazine via HIVSoc.
Next, out of the entrance, turning right into Station Road, passing children from the Junior School who were waiting near the Railway Vue, waving their Union Jacks, and slowly towards the Station, where the cars paused, since many of the Chivers’ staff had rushed out to give them a farewell wave.
On to the station where the Royal Train was waiting, with the dedicated, highly polished locomotive Royal Sovereign stopped across the level crossing.
20th October 1955. A very clean 61671 Royal Sovereign at Cambridge that morning, outside the station locomotive shed. Lots of railway officials were keeping an eye on things, despite the wet weather. Credit: The Starling Collection.
When the Monarch was on board a royal train, the front indicator code was for all four lamps to be displayed on the smoke box of the locomotive. For the return journey, the train had to be got to Histon in time and placed in the up platform there with the locomotive facing towards Cambridge. To achieve this and avoiding any risks with working the carriages ‘wrong line’ all the way from Chesterton Junction, it is probable that the whole train was routed via Ely, March (for turning on the triangle there) and St Ives. Other traffic on the line through Histon would have been halted temporarily.
At Histon a special canopy had been erected at the station entrance leading out towards the road for the royal party to use. Then the train pulled out slowly to take them back to Cambridge and on to London.
Royal train leaving for London behind locomotive Royal Sovereign 61671, with the especially white painted cab roof. Credit: Kidderminster Railway Museum Trust, from Cambridge Station, its development and operation, by Rob Shorland-Ball, Pen & Sword Transport 2017.
Villagers remember the visit. Source: Geoffrey Smallwood, Village Memories Project:
John Taylor recalled on 3rd May 2019:
“I have a specific memory when the Queen visited Histon. I'm pretty sure that it involved a visit to Chivers’ factory, and the children from Histon Junior School were taken to the station to line the route and wave our Union Jacks. I was placed very near to the railway gates and I remember the Royal Train headed by B2 61671 Royal Sovereign looking very clean and shiny and was going on to London.”
Impington resident Cynthia Thoday recalled that her late husband, Bill, and her father, the late Roland Pegg, who had a solid fuel business (at the station) stood on top of a coal wagon there and, as the royal train passed, was delighted to be given their own personal royal wave as the Queen went by.
Dick Hibbett of Histon was 24 at the time and working at Unwin’s the Builders premises in Station Road, behind where the fish and chip shop is now. On 22nd May 2020 he recalled:
“On that day in the afternoon a whistle blew and all staff were allowed to down tools and go outside to wave Union Jacks and cheer as the royal cars went by. After that excitement, we just went back to work. The Queen had been visiting Girton so she came from that direction, along Park Lane, down the High Street, turned right into Station Road and then on to Chivers – the route had been chosen so that as many as people as possible could see her.”
Eileen Smallwood, as a schoolgirl, can also remember going down from school to stand near the Railway Vue to wait for the royal party to pass. She was one of the many youngsters waving Union Jacks and can remember that the Queen wore an emerald green outfit.
Mary Law of Impington remembered on 22nd May 2020:
“I worked at Chivers and was one of the many who lined the roadway within the factory, to wave and greet the Queen as she drove slowly through. The car did not stop, so she did not get out. When she had passed, we all rushed down towards the station, where she had paused, so that she could wave to us again before boarding the train. I can remember that she wore an emerald green outfit.”
Shirley Brundish of Impington also remembered on 22nd May 2020:
”I worked, like many others, at Chivers, in the Front Office. Along with lots of the other girls, I was at the side of the route the royal cars took in the factory, so I could wave and cheer. Luckily, it was dry."