Many of our significant television-related acquisitions relate to one very important event in the history of television. Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation on June 2, 1953 put television on the map. Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of that momentous day by sharing some key objects from our archives.
The BBC prepares…
In the days leading up to the Coronation, cameras were set up all over London. It promised to be the BBC’s biggest ever outside broadcast at the time. Our collection highlights some of the technical achievements and breakthroughs made for the day.
A good example of such an object is the Watson zoom lens. Three cameras with zoom lenses like this one were used on the Thames Embankment to capture the outgoing procession as well as the fireworks display.
The national television network expands
An urgent post-war task was to spread coverage of television throughout the country. Four new high-power transmitters at Sutton Coldfield (Midlands), Holme Moss (Northern England), Kirk O’Shotts (South Scotland) and Wenvoe (South Wales) were completed by 1952, bringing 81% of the population within range.
With signals now available, people went out in their thousands to buy their first television sets in time to see the Coronation.
Watching the Coronation
Introduced by Sylvia Peters, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II would represent for many British people the first time they watched television. It was also the first time television had brought the nation together in such as shared experience.
The ceremony was viewed by an estimate 20 million people huddled around small television sets in their homes. It was calculated each set in Britain was watched by an average of 9 people.
Recognising the Coronation today
The collecting of items relating to the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 continues today. For example, recently we acquired a set of ten Tele-Snaps, photographs taken from television screens using a special technique by the photographer John Cura.
Unlike films of the Coronation, this series of Cura’s Tele-Snaps provide us with a crucial record of the Coronation as it actually appeared to the television audience in 1953. These likely resemble the selection of Cura’s Coronation Tele-Snaps which were mounted in a commemorative album and later presented to Her Majesty by the BBC.