“THE smiling Queen must have been enchanted with her welcome – and County Durham was certainly enchanted with its Queen,” said The Northern Echo on May 28, 1960, the day after the Queen had made her first of three visits to the region during the Sixties.

She started her day by stepping off the royal train at Horden where she must have noticed the dandelions – it's said they had been painted green to make the station look smarter, but surely this is an urban myth?

She stepped into her new, £10,000 rich maroon Rolls-Royce with an all-glass hood – the first time this vehicle, which gave spectators a fine view of the royal couple, had been seen in the provinces.

With crowds lining the streets they drove into Peterlee, where the Queen learnt “the secrets of what was in the pies and sausage rolls” of Anne’s Pantry. The Echo didn’t say whether, having learnt those secrets, the Queen was brave enough to sample the wares.

After calling in at St Cuthbert’s Church, she stopped for elevenses at the council house rented by commercial traveller Cecil Tindle, whose children had been given the day off from the Royal Commercial Travellers School, near Harrow.

Refreshed, Her Majesty dashed on to Durham, where there were “spectators on gay perches”, according to The Northern Echo, and she was cheered onto the Town Hall balcony.

She went to Durham castle for lunch – salmon mayonnaise, strawberries and cream, plus coffee – before signing the visitors’ book in the cathedral, where she spotted her own signature from 1947 when she had been Princess Elizabeth on her first visit to the region.

From Durham, the Rolls took her down the A167 – then the Great North Road – towards Newton Aycliffe, her second new town of the day.

“At Ferryhill, people crowded the roadside from the cut to Dene Road and pressed so far into the roadway that there was only just sufficient room for the royal cars to pass through,” said the Echo. “Dean and Chapter colliery men lined the colliery railings, some still with their pit helmets on.”

The Ferryhill cut was so congested that day that the Rolls had to nose its way through the people with a policeman walking in front trying to shepherd the crowds out of the way.

In Aycliffe, the royal couple had a very busy schedule. They opened the RAFA club, looked in at the council offices and even inspected the Simpasture playing field.

At Aycliffe Secondary Modern School, the Queen received a bouquet from 11-year-old Carolyn Corner, who, in 1949, had been the first new town baby.

Then she went into 13 Barrington Way, the home of William and Lucy Llewellyn and their four children, for a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

The family had been told to lay on nothing special – "an ordinary family in an ordinary council house" – and so the Queen took three small bites out of their ordinary fairy cake. However, they had splashed out on a lemon for the royal cuppa for 4d.

"The papers wrongly claimed we'd stayed in hotels while they did the place up, that I'd had my hair done by a leading stylist and been out and bought a really expensive dress,” Lucy told the Echo some years later. "It was because everything was so ordinary. They had to make it up.

"I remember her standing at the kitchen door as I made the tea and thinking 'Good God, so much weight on such a small pair of shoulders’."

The duke tried to put the Llewellyns at their ease. He told the story of a ship they had launched that had only been painted on one side (and then he moved on to the tale of the yellow dandelions that had been painted green to smarten up a station).

“Have a cigarette, if you want one,” he told Mr Llewellyn. He didn’t, but took the duke into his workshop where he kept his Punch and Judy equipment – Billy had started his professional career as a Punch and Judy professor on Coronation Day 1953 as he cycled with his equipment between street parties in Darlington.

“Doesn’t it frighten the children?” asked the Queen. Mr Llewellyn said he tried out his shows on his children, aged from two to 11. One of them – Brian, aged six – clearly wasn’t too frightened, as he took over from his father, performing his first show for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The visit was scheduled to last 12 minutes, but stretched to 20. When an equerry knocked on the door to hurry them along, young Brian closed it on him. "They'll not dare knock again," said the duke.

Eventually, the Queen brought the visit to an end and returned to her rich maroon Rolls Royce.

“To close the Royal party’s 45-mile tour of Durham,” said the Echo, “there was a pleasant drive through the bright green hedgerows of south Durham, more cheers at the Gretna Green Inn, at Ricknall Lane level crossing, at Great Stainton, Sadberge, Fighting Cocks, Dinsdale, and from servicemen and their families at the RAF station in Middleton St George.”