Rare illustrations to go on display at Ramsgate Tunnels to mark King’s coronation

The illustrations come from the 1953 film, The Coronation Ceremony

By Dan Thompson

A rare pair of illustrations used around the world to promote Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation are going to be on show at Ramsgate Tunnels to mark the coronation of King Charles.

The illustrations come from a 1953 film, The Coronation Ceremony, which was distributed across the world ahead of the Queen’s Coronation that year.

They are by James Gardner, who never became a household name, but was described by Hugh Casson as ‘perhaps the most inventive, versatile and prolific designer in the UK for more than half of the 20th century’.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gardner was appointed Chief Deception Officer, Army Camouflage. He played a key role in designing camouflage paint schemes and deception operations, using inflatable ships and tanks. He also designed a number of propaganda posters.

After the war, he helped to define the style of a new, optimistic nation looking forwards to a bold future. He designed the Britain Can Make It exhibition at the V&A in 1946. And in 1951, he worked on several parts of the Festival of Britain, acting as Chief Designer for the Battersea Park pleasure gardens and designing displays for the ‘People of Britain’ pavilion at the South Bank Exhibition.

Then in 1953, he was commissioned to design public decorations for the coronation of the new Queen.

Gardner designed decorations down the Mall, a canopied triumphal arch in front of the Royal Albert Hall, viewing stands along the procession route, and a maypole in the Strand. He also designed a display with a replica of the Coronation Coach with all horses, riders, and regalia at Olympia.

And he created a set of detailed illustrations, showing the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. They were used in a film before the ceremony, and shared across the world for use during live broadcasts, by the government’s Central Office of Information. The illustrations included a movable monarch!

Gardner would later design the superstructure and interior for the QE2, and displays for museums and galleries across the world.

After Gardner’s death in 1997, his exhibition design company 3DC became HKD, who are today based at Marine Studios in Margate. HKD have worked on plans for new exhibits at Ramsgate Tunnels.

HKD’s directors have loaned the illustrations, which are from their personal collection.

As part of The Big Help Out Day celebrating King Charles’ Coronation on Monday 8th May  the Tunnels will also have two volunteer pop up stalls, one at Ramsgate Tunnels and the other at Victoria Gardens, Broadstairs.

If you have ever thought about volunteering at the Tunnels it is an opportunity to talk with some of the volunteers about the roles on offer.