A visit from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

By Alice Butler

The collection of Kodachrome slides.

Earlier this year, St John’s College came into possession of 10 slides of Kodachrome film. Kodachrome is a type of photo processing that was introduced in 1935 and became mainstream in the 1960s, with projectors used to beam the photos onto a wall. They were completely discontinued in 2009.

Not only do the slides we have show how St John’s looked in the 70s, they also document a visit from the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. We can see former Principal John Cockerton showing the Queen Mother around. John Cockerton was Principal of St John’s between 1970 and1978.

The visit took place on 17 July 1975. It included a presentation of staff; a visit to Bowes House and a visit to the Chapel to see the Bowes Hatchment and window. We see in the Kodachrome images Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother being accompanied by John and Diana Cockerton while walking around college grounds.

Above slides: (Kodachrome slides in colour) – Principal John Cockerton (1970-78) showing the Queen Mother around the Library Lawn area. (Black and white images) – taken from the college history book ‘Fides Nostra Victoria: A Portrait of St John’s College’, showing the visit around college and at the Chapel.

We thought this time of celebrations around the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is a fitting occasion to share these photos and be reminded of the St John’s connection to the Bowes family. Dame Elizabeth Bowes (1651-1736) lived at 4 South Bailey – the area home to Vasey & Tristram Rooms, as well as student bedrooms – and is buried in the Bowes family vault at our college chapel, the Church of St Mary the Less. She had ten children and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) was descended from her third son, George Bowes.

“a very happy day in the history of the College… as far as I know the first royal visit to St John’s.”

Principal’s Letter 1976

Above slides: What are now the Vasey Rooms were once the Principal’s flat.

Above slides: The image on the left shows the area outside Cruddas, part of which is where Leech Hall now stands. The image on the right shows the view from the Vasey Room window, which is much unchanged today, besides the addition of wrought iron gates leading down to the river.

Can you identify where this room could be in John’s?

If you have any further information about the visit from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, or would like to share memories of this time at St John’s, we would love to hear from you! Get in touch by email on johns.alumni@durham.ac.uk

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