Thirty-two years ago, on 1 June 1983, Accrington, Hyndburn in East Lancashire gave a right royal welcome to one of its most famous visitors.
Princess Diana came to open the new £8M Joseph Arnold Ltd., a Christmas, birthday and celluloid greeting cards factory at Church Bridge Works, Wharf Mill, and sparked scenes of wild adulation. It was a month before her 22nd birthday.
Crowds lined the route, children showered her with flowers and the streets were awash with Union Jacks and balloons as she arrived wearing a summery red and white polka dot Catherine Walker dress with matching red jacket and a wide-brimmed matching John Boyd hat. The Princess toured every department of the factory, signed the visitor’s book and stopped to talk to excited workers along the way.
She avoided the baby cards department amid speculation that she was again expecting. Diana opened the building while phone order catalogue shopping was in its hey-dey.
And, in the vast reception area of what is now known as Express Gifts Ltd., inside their head office in Accrington, Diana, Princess of Wales, still beams down from the wood panelled wall with her trademark Mona Lisa smile.
The firm’s production director Jack Clark said at the time: “She was everything we had hoped for. She gives the impression that she is very shy but that is not the case at all. She has a wonderful personality and is quite forceful.”
Earlier in the day, she opened the doors to the new 600 bed Royal Preston Hospital, whose official opening programme cover is seen below. She skipped a planned Royal Luncheon that day in order to keep up with her schedule. She unveiled the commemorative plaque of the new hospital, at the time, just completed by Henry Boot Building Limited, whose representative is by her side at right, below.Built close to the former Sharoe Green Hospital, the Royal Preston officially opened on June 1, 1983 and replaced the old Preston Royal Infirmary, now a housing complex in Deepdale Road.
For the staff and patients it was a state-of-the-art medical centre with new and modern facilities. The physiotherapy department was the first to open with outpatients attending on January 12, 1981. People came to the hospital in their hundreds to see the late Diana Princess of Wales officially unveil the plaque to mark its official opening. Janet Hadfield, 49, a modern matron for paediatrics, worked at the hospital since it opened after her department moved from Sharoe Green in September 1981. “Everything was new, you could still smell the paint,” said Mrs Hadfield, from Fulwood. “All the equipment was new but many things that were new then have changed now. The nurses wore skirts, not pants like now, the ward sisters were more strict, the equipment has got more technical and the hospital has expanded.” In 1913, Queen Mary, above, was one of the first Royals to ever visit the Hyndburn area, and, as with Princess Diana, 70 years later, crowds turned out in vast numbers to see her.Photos of the official programme below: