Queen Elizabeth II visits Redditch, 5th July 1983.
- 5th July 2023
Forty years ago, on the 5th of July 1983 the Redditch Development Corporation invited Queen Elizabeth II to visit Redditch to open the Kingfisher Shopping Centre and the Forge Mill National Needle Museum. She would meet civic leaders and local representatives as she walked through the town centre and ate at the Town Hall, before visiting Hymatic Engineering to view the modern industry and engineering taking place in the town.
“Her Majesty the Queen’s visit will identify the old traditions of Redditch but will bring together the new aspects of the town which the townsfolk can feel justly proud. The visit by The Queen will set the seal of the town and auger well for its future” Redditch Advertiser July 1983
On a hot and sunny day forty years ago, Redditch buzzed with excitement as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the town to celebrate its history and the developments generated by the Redditch Development Corporation. At mid-day on the 5th of July 1983 the Queen arrived and was introduced to civic leaders, then, starting at Church Green, people lined the streets to greet her. The Redditch Advertiser published a supplement before the event providing a guide to facilitate the crowds attending to see her. When she arrived members of the Redditch Development Corporation were presented to her. The Queen was invited to sign the Visitor’s book and presented with decanters of Royal Brierley Crystal.
In Milward Square 400 representatives of voluntary organisations, industry and commerce organisations, schools, public services, and the elderly gathered to watch as the Queen unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the square and the Kingfisher Shopping Centre.
Milward Square was named after Henry Milward & Sons, needle manufacturer, which has been trading from Redditch since 1730 and representative of the family were presented to the Queen. The Chairman of the Development Corporation Professor Denys Hinton in a short speech said:
“I am happy because the reason you are here is the completion of an enterprise of which everyone can be proud and which brings together people from many walks of life, including those who over the past 20 years contributed to the development of the town and to which this town is indebted”
Also present was Professor Eduardo Paolozzi, the artist who created the mosaics. The Queen was presented with an album containing images of the mosaics. She also met members of HMS Kingfisher, the Royal Navy ship adopted by the town and the namesake of the Shopping Centre.
The Queen, along with the Mayor of Redditch, continued her tour across Market Square and along Alcester Street, before reaching the Town Hall where she joined 170 invited guests for lunch, including some local residents chosen by ballot. Wine produced in Auxerre, Burgundy, France, Redditch’s twin since 1956. After the meal the Queen unveiled a plaque in the foyer, signed the visitor’s book, staff members and a representative of the Muslim community were also presented to her.
After lunch The Queen visited the Forge Mill ‘National Needle Museum’, the last remaining water driven scouring mill in the world. The Mill, built in 1730, and water wheel, dating from 1828, had been in use until 1958 when Albert Jakeman scoured the last packet of needles, but had fallen into disrepair during the following years. The Redditch Development Corporation were able to restore the Mill and create a museum. The Queen formally opened both the Mill and Museum by unveiling a plaque and ringing a bell to start the water wheel before touring the museum.
The Queen was presented with a small trophy and certificate prepared by NASA acknowledging the use of surgical needles in the manufacture of the fabric covers for the heat-resisting tiles on the Space Shuttles Orbiters Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis. NASA used needles manufactured by Shrimpton and Fletcher Ltd. of Redditch to hand sew parts of the Advanced Flexible Reusable Surface Insulation which protected the shuttles from overheating during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
At Forge Mill, children from St Stephen’s First School sang a song written and conducted by a local couple Mr and Mrs Barker:
The Welcome Song
Redditch bids you welcome,
Your Majesty the Queen,
On the greatest day
That our town has ever seen.
All the flags are flying
And every band will play
For your Majesty the Queen
Has come to Redditch town today.
The Queen’s last stop on her tour of the town was at the Hymatic Engineering Company in Moons Moat, where she was shown to Redditch’s contribution to state-of-the-art engineering in the defence and aerospace sectors. She was shown the miniature cryogenic cooling system used in infrared sight on the Milan Missile launcher, and the anti-g valve controls in pilot’s suit for gravitational forces. She was given a tour of the factory and the ‘Apprentice and Training Centre’ to meet apprentices and sponsored undergraduates.
Just before 4pm the Queen left Redditch and left from Birmingham Airport. A supplement published by The Redditch Advertiser on the 21st of July reported the success of the day along with picture capturing the day.
Papers of the Redditch Development Corporation relating to the planning and organisation of the Queen’s Visit are held at BA10300/726-728
Photos of the Queen’s visit can be found at BA11883
The History of Redditch New Town 1964-1985 by Gordan Anstis. (Redditch, 1985) pp.216-218
The Redditch Advertiser – July 1983