It is probably not widely known, but The Lee played a vital role in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.
The tale is best told in the words of Nigel Dwight (1918 – 2009) in an extract from The Lee in Living Memory.
In the late spring of 1953, our village became for a few brief minutes the most important place in the country. Somewhere was needed to host the rehearsals for the Coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. The venue had to be secluded yet close to London and the people involved had to be sworn to secrecy. There was to be no publicity and no press releases. That would have spoilt it. The Lee fitted the bill and the vicar, the Revd John Carter, had been a pupil of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor Fisher. Perfect! Somehow things were kept quiet and on a few Sundays, the Parish Church gained an extra member of the congregation – the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
When the rehearsals took place there were other guests – church dignitaries and members of the police service seen walking about in the churchyard carrying documents and talking. There was no congregation at the rehearsals. The Vicar’s wife stood in for the Queen and there were ‘doubles’ for the Archbishops of York and Durham. My dad and I were in the churchyard and I asked one gentleman, “Who are you?” My father said, “You shouldn’t have spoken to the gentleman like that!” He said ”I’m the Duke of Norfolk. I have to oversee everything.” There were several gentlemen walking about in very ordinary suits. I was told they were the security men. The Reverend Carter came out when we were sitting on the grass having a cup of tea. He said, “Come on, Robert, we need something for the crown”. We got a little paper thing to put on Mrs Carter’s head. The rehearsal took nearly all morning. The Duke of Norfolk oversaw everything and stepped in on occasions to make corrections. On the day that it was televised, I could recognise him straight away in his lovely cocked hat and uniform leading the procession and carrying the orb and sceptre. That’s how that came about – a great event in my life.