Winchelsea’s very Big Lunch


When I was a child, it was a Monday morning routine to have to write ‘Mon weekend’ – I went to a French school. I never knew whether it was to instil discipline in us, to encourage us to share and express ourselves, or because the teachers couldn’t think of a more interesting topic. It was a mindless chore and I hated it. As they say, youth is wasted on the young. Nowadays, I could easily write paragraphs about where I’ve been, who I’ve seen and what I’ve eaten. Which brings us to last weekend: coronation weekend.

Red, white and blue flowers, all over my kitchen

I have the great joy of living in Winchelsea. Its long and distinguished history is known to one and all. It comes up a lot, even in daily conversation. If King Charles’s predecessor, Edward l were to ride back into town, he’d recognise a fair amount, principally the grid formation that he himself laid out. And it’s along one of these streets, St Thomas Street, that I spent my weekend.

‘The Decoration Divas’, Hilary and Jane, laying out homemade bunting

To me, one of the most interesting things about Winchelsea is its wealth of fantastically gifted, endlessly fascinating, knowledgeable, dynamic, variety of people. If you need a specialist on anything, you’ll find them here, along with a willingness to share that knowledge. In a population of just under 400, you’ll find doctors, architects, musicians, journalists, logisticians, civil servants, artists, writers, teachers, actors and even retired caterers. Because these people are all so talented, at this stage in their careers, they have turned themselves into a strong, resourceful, coherent, creative, caring community.

Hanging the bunting, Rob and friends

And so on Sunday, May 7, we held a huge street party, to mark the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. We started with 120; this was dictated pretty much by the number of tables and chairs available from the New Hall. And then it went up, so we requisitioned tables and chairs from St Thomas’. And then it went up, so we raided the Court Hall. We finished at around 225, plus picnickers on the verge.

225 residents at the Winchelsea Street Party

There was food, wine, entertainment, a cocktail station, a barbecue run by The New Inn, a visit from the MP, an address from the mayor, who had attended the coronation in his role as a Cinque Ports baron, a glass of prosecco to toast the king, and red, white and blue cupcakes to share.

Celia King, baker extraordinaire

The amount of planning and organisation cannot be underestimated, but the residents who made up the coronation committee cannot either. The day went off without a hitch and thanks to the importance in our town of St Thomas’, its rector and loyal congregation, even the sun shone.

The Reverend Jonathan Meyer and yours truly

It was a magnificent day, enjoyed by all and in the words of one of the hundreds of messages and photos shared on the community WhatsApp group “truly happy and glorious”.

Street Party food

Long live the king and long may I live in Winchelsea.

Image Credits: Natasha Robinson , Sergio Rebecchi .

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  1. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who have shared their memories of coronation day in 1953. I was 11 and in my final year at Winchelsea primary school. We crowded around a tiny television set in the school in one of the school classrooms (Mrs Brakefield’s room, for those who remember), to watch the actual ceremony.
    I think we must have gone home for lunch – I can’t really remember.
    In the afternoon there was entertainment and fun in the New Hall and the field outside, and the whole town got together.
    The mayor had a competition for children to write an essay about the actual coronation. I can remember pouring over a big sheet of foolscap paper which we didn’t usually see, and they were sent in and then the mayor judged them.
    Mine was judged the best, and I got the prize of £5.
    I was starting at the grammar school next term, so I used it for books. I was advised to get the Pocket Oxford dictionary and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of English poetry.
    (I was Mary Kielman, in case anyone remembers!)

  2. Fantastic memories! Me and my partner walked past the Big Lunch in Winchelsea on the Sunday and were itching to join in, it looked absolutely fantastic with a real neighbourly feel. Glad it was such a sunny day for everyone.


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