HER MAJESTY the Queen visited our part of West Gloucestershire twice in her long reign.

The first time was in 1957, some five years after she became Queen, as part of a nationwide tour.

The second was nine years later, on September 8 1966 when she officially opened one of the wonders of the age, the Severn Bridge

It was estimated that some 6,000 people were waiting outside the Speech House to welcome .the Queen and Prince Philip when they arrived on the evening of Wednesday, April 25 1957.

The front page of that week’s Dean Forest Guardian – one of the forerunners of The Forester – confidently asserted:

“Nowhere on their intensive tours of the Midlands on Tuesday and Wednesday could Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip have been more impressed with their welcome than at the Speech House on Wednesday.”

The paper reported that although it was the end of a long and tiring both Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh “looked superbly at ease, serene and fresh”.

As the Royal motorcade made its way from Symonds Yat, through Christchurch and Berry Hill and past Worrall Hill to the Speech House, there were people all along the route to cheer them.

The Royal party was met at the entrance of the Speech House by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, the Duke of Beaufort.

The newspaper also reported that Her Majesty “obviously enjoyed some of our Coleford-produced fruit juice.”

Two oak saplings were then planted with Her Majesty and Prince Philip using stainless steels spades.

Her Majesty returned nine years later to open the first Severn Bridge.

Her Majesty opened the Severn Bridge in 1960
Her Majesty opened the Severn Bridge in 1966 (Tindle)

By the early 1960s, the increasing amount of traffic travelling between England and Wales meant that a crossing was imperative.

For some 30 years there had been three ferries taking vehicles between Beachley and Aust for those wanting to avoid the detour around Gloucester.

But each of the ferries could only carry about 20 cars.

Construction started in 1961 with the decks being fabricated at Fairfield Mabey in Chepstow and floated across the river to lifted into place.

The Queen and Prince Philip were driven across from Aust to Chepstow on Thursday, September 8 1966.

On the river below, ships sounded their horns to welcome them.

Ironically, they included the three ferries – Severn King, Severn Queen and Severn Princess – which the new bridge made obsolete overnight.