- From Norwich to Nairobi: Queen Elizabeth II & Coventry cars
From Norwich to Nairobi: Queen Elizabeth II & Coventry cars
12 September 2022
Reflecting on royal visits recorded in the Rootes Group's photographic archives
Her Majesty The Queen during the Royal Tour of Whyalla, South Australia, entering Toowoomba Show Ground
During the early years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, Coventry was a major motor manufacturing city, exporting vehicles around the world as well as selling them in the UK.
Soon after her coronation in 1952, the Queen embarked on a Royal Tour, visiting several Commonwealth countries in a journey that was documented by the Rootes Group, which produced luxury cars in which the Queen herself travelled, including the Humber Pullman Landaulette. The Rootes Group photographs are now held by Culture Coventry in the Coventry Archives at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.
As well as international tours, Rootes photographers also documented domestic journeys, including the then-Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Coventry in 1948, during which she was invited to a display of local vehicles at the War Memorial Park, as well as overseeing the official opening of Broadgate and celebrating the start of the city’s post-war regeneration. Written captions report that Princess Elizabeth took an active interest in the car exhibits, having "gained first-hand knowledge of motor mechanics during the war". Another photograph shows her return to the city in 1956, when she laid the foundation stone of the new Cathedral.
As we reflect on Queen Elizabeth II's life and legacy, we're revealing a few of the photographs held in our archive, which you can browse below (captions are given below the images). If you would like to see any of the photographs in-person, Coventry Archives is open Wednesday – Friday, 10.30am – 3.30pm. Find out more about browsing our online collections catalogue and visiting the archives centre here.
Her Majesty The Queen arrives at St Andrews Church, Nairobi, 2nd February 1952
Humber cars for the Royal Tour of Australia and New Zealand, 1953
Her Majesty The Queen photographed during the Royal Progress at Yallourn, Victoria, 3rd March 1953
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh alighting from the Humber Pullman Landaulette when they visited H.M.Cy.S. Vijaya on April 11th 1954. The area forming the background of the photograph had recently been reclaimed by suction dredging to build the new Passenger Quay which Her Majesty named ‘Queen Elizabeth Quay’ during her visit. The Royal Yacht ‘Gothic’ was the first ship to tie up alongside this new Quay. Up to this time all ships in Colombo Harbour discharged passenger and freight by lighter.
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh attending the Chicago International Trade Fair on 6 July 1959, visiting the British Automobile Manufacturers’ exhibit of eight different makes of English cars, including Austin, Austin-Healey, Hillman, Humber, Jaguar, Morris, Rolls-Royce and Triumph.
(left to right) Queen Elizabeth; Prince Philip; Thomas H. Coulter, Director of the Chicago Fair; John Dugdale, Vice-President of the British Automobile Manufacturers Association; John Panks, Chairman of B.A.M.A. and Managing Director of Rootes Motors Inc.; and Richard Yorke, Vice-President of Rolls-Royce Inc. Accompanying the Royal party were Mr John G. Diefenbaker, Canadian Prime Minister; the Governor of Illinois; and the Mayor of Chicago.
Her Royal Highness the Princess Elizabeth being received by the Right Reverend The Lord Bishop at the Cathedral in Norwich
Princess Elizbeth looks at a Sunbeam-Talbot car - part of a Rootes Group display of locally made vehicles, exhibited in the War Memorial Park during her visit to Coventry for the official opening of Broadgate on 22nd May 1948
A caption on the reverse of the image reads: "When Princess Elizabeth visited Coventry to unbeil the tablet commemorating the early stages of the rebuilding of the City Centre (blitzed in 1940), she spend a considerable time inspecting the special exhibition of Coventry's industries set up in Memorial Park. The Princess, who gained first-hand knowledge of Motor Mechanics during the war, was particularly interested in the car exhibits."
Princess Elizbeth's passes a Humber Super-Snipe - part of a Rootes Group display of locally made vehicles, exhibited in the War Memorial Park during her visit to Coventry for the official opening of Broadgate on 22nd May 1948
Princess Elizbeth's looks at a Commer Superpoise Van - part of a Rootes Group display in the War Memorial Park during her visit to Coventry for the official opening of Broadgate on 22nd May 1948
Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, leaving the Council House in Coventry after the Civil Luncheon, during her visit to the city on 23rd March 1956. The photograph shows (left to right): Mrs Dewis, Lord Mayor Alderman D.H. Dewis, H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh and H.M. The Queen.