Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Derbyshire through the decades
- Credit: John Smedley
Here’s a right Royal starter for ten: what do Pride Park football stadium, Chesterfield Market and Thornton’s chocolate factory all have in common?
Sadly, no points for spotting the Derbyshire link. All, however, can proudly share memories of the time Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II paid them a visit.
And these are just a few of the many of occasions the Royal cavalcade has swept into the county.
Whilst in the early days the Queen’s preferred mode of arrival was by train, more recently the Royal limousine - or even perhaps a helicopter - signals the beginning of a visit.
Whichever, there’s little doubt that, for many people, the sight of the reigning monarch creates a sense of barely contained excitement.
For those lucky enough to join the official welcoming party, whether it’s to proffer a bow, a curtsey or a posy of flowers, this can be a momentous, even life-changing experience that lives long in the memory.
Yet the stately manner in which Her Majesty has conducted such encounters continues to earn her the respect and admiration of countless people.
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The Queen’s first official visit to Derbyshire came in 1957, four years after her coronation, when she was greeted by a vast assembly of 22,000 schoolchildren at the now closed Sudbury Railway Station.
Lunch at Repton School then preceded the inspection of a Guard of Honour, standing to attention in Derby’s Market Place.
What followed was the beginning of a long association with The Leylands, an estate village built to accommodate former workers from the linen and woollen drapers’ trades; sealed when Her Majesty toured the Broadway site and became patron of the charity.
With more than 600 charities and organisations across the UK and Commonwealth headed by the Queen, it’s little surprise that local representatives – the Girl Guides being one such example – are often invited to meet her during official engagements.
A few lucky guiders got the call-up in 1985 for a visit to the Derbyshire Dales. During the day she met more youngsters at celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne.
For pupils at Derby’s Royal School for the Deaf, the Royal welcome in 1992 is etched in its history; an inauguration stone at the entrance to Carsington Water reservoir, unveiled in the same year, providing another enduring memory of time spent there by our longest-reigning monarch.
Visits arranged during earlier Jubilee celebrations have often held a special significance in Derbyshire.
The conferment of city status is a huge honour, none more so than for Derby, which received the Letters Patent from the Queen during 1977, Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee year.
With the processional route from the railway thronged by well-wishers, many of whom had reportedly queued since the previous evening to catch a glimpse, the appearance on the Council House balcony of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh was a highlight.
Following this, en route to the opening of the newly extended Derbyshire Police HQ in Ripley, an unplanned detour saw a revisit to The Leylands; which must have been both a surprise and delight for those who received her.
Twenty-five years on, with Golden Jubilee fever sweeping the nation, Derby again welcomed the Royal party, this time to enjoy a spectacular pageant held at Pride Park Stadium, which saw the monarch drive among the crowds in an open-topped car.
However, this was not her only visit to the hallowed turf because Pride Park can claim bragging rights as the first football ground to be opened by the Queen.
Film footage from 1997 shows the stands packed with thousands of applauding supporters as she walked out of the tunnel, before being presented to the Rams players by their newly-appointed manager, the late Jim Smith.
For fashionistas of royal attire, that particular day saw Her Majesty dressed in a primrose yellow outfit and hat.
Of that day, Keith Loring, Derby County’s late former chief executive, recalled the event fondly some years later.
‘The Lord Lieutenant, who I knew quite well, knew we were officially opening the stadium and he asked the right questions at the right time, it’s as simple as that.
‘I had no time on the day to think about anything, at the time I didn’t realise how proud I was. My mum and dad died many years ago, my mum especially would have loved to have seen us on that day.
‘It was just an amazing experience. To be part of putting the day together and see it come to fruition was a great feeling. I know all the many people involved will still remember it and say how proud they were.
‘I met the Queen again when she came to Pride Park for a second time a few years later for the Jubilee. That day she sat in the directors’ box and it was pouring down with rain.
‘The bit I always remember was an employee called Jim. Jim was employed to drive the Queen out on the open plan Range Rover around the inside of the stadium, which was packed to the rafters – stopping periodically so Her Majesty could receive flowers from children.
‘I remember catching Jim’s eye, he would have been knocked out, every second of it. It’s a great, great memory’.
Sky blue was the colour chosen for alighting from the royal train at Matlock Railway Station in 2014 when, unlike previous visits for which the weather gods had decreed rain and fog, the sun shone brightly.
Photos taken at the time show the Queen pausing to meet with people who’d travelled from near and far, including air cadets from 140 Matlock Squadron.
Next stop was Lea Mills, the home of knitwear company John Smedley, who that year marked 230 years of manufacturing – more on this particular visit later in this special edition of Derbyshire Life.
A long-time favourite of royal wardrobes, during this tour (an earlier one took place in 1968) she was presented with a collection of sweaters and polo shirts for her great grandson Prince George.
Unsurprisingly, it’s long been a tradition for the Royal party to receive souvenir gifts as a memento of their visits.
In fact back in 1949, when a 23-year-old Princess Elizabeth first came to Derby accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, sandwiched between the official opening of the Council House and a visit to the Rolls Royce engine plant was porcelain manufacturer Royal Crown Derby.
It was here that the young Princess was presented with a christening mug for her first-born, Prince Charles.
Later in the mid-eighties, Her Majesty’s grandchildren, Peter, Zara, William and Harry, were the lucky recipients of Easter eggs following an excursion to the Thorntons chocolate factory, based in Swanwick.
Her Majesty’s 2014 trip to Derbyshire included the short drive to Chatsworth House, where the Queen enjoyed lunch with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, a visit that also provided the chance to engage in conversation with Peak District rangers, alongside some of those involved in the area’s mountain and cave rescue services and local air ambulance crew.
Over the decades, recognising the work of emergency workers has frequently been on the Royal radar.
In the early 1990s, Her Majesty met with consultants at Derby Royal Infirmary who, three years previously, had been involved on the front-line treating victims of the Kegworth air crash; whilst Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospital was officially opened by the Queen in 1985.
Chesterfield has frequently featured on Royal itineraries. In 2003 the Queen performed the ceremonial unveiling of the town’s new magistrates’ court and also took a look around the open-air market, notable for being one of the oldest in England.
Meeting and remembering those who’ve served their country is another common theme embraced during visits.
The Queen has previously met World War One veterans in Lea, and (as Princess Elizabeth) laid the ceremonial foundation stone for Allenton’s Memorial Village, which was originally built for disabled or retired military personnel.
Meanwhile, in recognition of those members of the public who’ve contributed to their community, there’s an invitation to attend the traditional Maundy service held on the Thursday before Easter.
Early in her reign, Queen Elizabeth II took the decision to distribute the bags of specially-minted silver coins based on the number of years she has lived beyond London.
This saw cathedrals and abbeys throughout the country celebrating the occasion and, in 2010, it was Derby Cathedral’s turn; seven years after receiving its first visit by a reigning monarch in the building’s 1,000-year history.
We have yet to see where in Derbyshire makes it onto Her Majesty’s official appointments calendar this year.
However, having touched the lives of so many people over the decades, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee looks set to see the bunting fluttering en masse and celebrations in full swing.
Across our towns and villages, this really is a one-off chance to honour a truly remarkable reign and a truly remarkable Queen.
Derbyshire has been no stranger to Royal visits over the centuries - From Mary, Queen of Scots’ stopover at Babington Hall in the 1545, to King Edward VII’s 1906 unveiling of a statue featuring Queen Victoria.
This marked the spot where, in 1891, she’d laid the foundation stone for the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary.
Queen Elizabeth II’s official representative in Derbyshire is the Lord-Lieutenant, an office that dates back to Tudor times.
Liz Fothergill CBE has held this position since July 2020 - taking the reins from previous incumbent Willie Tucker CVO who performed the role for 11 successful years - and carries out duties, such as the presenting the Queen’s Award for Industry, on the monarch’s behalf.
John Smedley is the oldest company in Derbyshire to currently hold the Royal Warrant for the regular supply of goods or services to the Queen, HRH the Prince of Wales, or to their Households.
Others companies carrying this mark of recognition include: Chesterfield’s Direct Communications Radio Services and Benring Consultants, based in Buxton.
IN THE SPOLIGHT
HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s visits to Derbyshire through the decades
1957: Her Majesty’s first official visit to the county as Queen
1968: Crowds gather in Matlock to welcome her for the first time
1977: The official royal endorsement of Derby’s city status
1985: Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospital is opened by the Queen
1992: Her Majesty tours the Derbyshire Dales taking-in both town and countryside
2002: The Queen’s Golden Jubilee is celebrated in the monarch’s presence at Pride Park Stadium
2010: In an 800-year-old ceremony, the Queen hands out Maundy money at Derby Cathedral to local residents who’ve served their community
Words by Viv Micklefield