Q is for Queen of Cotton

I’ve raided the Tameside Image Archive for ABC Wednesday to find these photos of Frances Lockett who was voted Hyde’s first Cotton Queen in 1930 and went on to become the first Cotton Queen of Britain.

The contest was a major event held annually between 1930 and 1939 to promote the cotton industry. It was organised by the Daily Dispatch and held in Blackpool over a three week period.  To be eligible, the contestants had to work in the cotton industry and be aged between 16 and 26.

The aspiring Queens entered by sending their photos to their local newspaper and as many as twenty towns then elected their local queen.  They went to Blackpool for a few days and the national queen was chosen in a ceremony at the Tower Ballroom.

Frances was the daughter of a policeman and lived on Queen Street, appropriately. She worked at Newton Mill in Hyde from leaving school at 14 and was 19 when she won the Cotton Crown.

She was welcomed home with a procession through the streets in an open landau carriage drawn by four bay horses. Mounted police led the procession and she was followed by the Kingston Mill Band, a troupe of Morris dancers, more than 300 workers from Newton Mill, members of the Hyde Lads Club, 40 cars and the Hyde Borough Brass Band.

More than 20,000 turned out to line the streets and Frances was given a civic reception at the town hall.

Being the national cotton queen was a prestigious, exciting and glamorous role and for one year the chosen girl did not have to work in a mill, instead travelling the country, with a chauffeur and chaperone, promoting cotton goods.

Frances died in 1993 having returned to work in J & J Ashton’s Mill, although she remained in demand for charity events.

The Waltz of the Cotton Queen, commemorated Frances’ success and the sheet music sold well. It expressed both the pride in her achievement and the uncertainty of the cotton industry:

She walked the pace in stately form
So graceful and serene
And Hyde is proud of such a lass
Britain’s first cotton queen
All England hopes our Cotton Mills
Again will run full-time
And we shall see a smile again
Upon all faces shine

ABC Wednesday Round 7

Queens by Ramblin’ Roger

Queen Gertrude by Berowne

Question Mark at Pixel Minded

Queues at Books Please

Quizzical by a Yankee in Belgrade

Quotes at Postmark California

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

11 comments… Add yours
  • rog 10th November 2010

    unfamiliar with such a QUAINT custom. It’s rather interesting.
    Oh, and thanks for the link.

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Wanda 10th November 2010

    Oh this is marvelous! She is stunning… And I love to wear cotton. In fact one of my favorite brands is “Hot Cotton”. They have a wonderful line of cotton and linen clothes.

  • jabblog uk 10th November 2010

    How very interesting! I’d never heard of the Cotton Queen before. It must have been hard to return to daily work in the mill after a year of travelling and promoting cotton goods. Pretty lady, too.

  • TheChieftess 10th November 2010

    Interesting bit of Quirky Hyde history!!! As an American, I don’t think of the cotton industry being in England…it is so intertwined with the history of our southern states…It is interesting to see the similarities of customs in our countries!!!

  • Yorkshire Pudding 10th November 2010

    Well you have taught me something this evening. How times have changed. And where have the cotton mills gone? Now there are no Cotton Queens – just Dot Cotton in “EastEnders” and even she has changed her name to Branning.

  • Mr Parrot 11th November 2010

    Thank you all for your comments. I’m just catching up after seeing our daughter off to South Africa.

    Frances was indeed a stunner with film star looks, judging from her photographs. But I also suspect a down to earth woman who could happily leave the fame behind her, unlike many ‘celebrities’ today.

    There is a strong link between north west England and the US when it comes to cotton. At some point I will post a photo of Abraham Lincoln that stands in Manchester, donated in thanks for the solidarity shown by the cotton workers whose livelihoods suffered when the mills refused to deal with the southern states for the raw material.

    YP: there are still a few mills standing except now they are factory outlets or trendy apartments. Very sad.

    • Vicki Jones 25th January 2020

      If you still look at this (9 years too late!), I’m Frances’ great neice and I’ve got all of her photos and press cuttings of her reign. I was extremely close to her as she never had children of her own. Happy to share x

      • Mr Parrot 26th January 2020

        Yes, I do still keep up with the blog even if I don’t post quite as frequently as I once did! You must be very proud of your great-aunt and I’m glad to have done my small part in preserving her memory.

  • Howard Bond 30th January 2012

    I’m a bit late noticing this item, but for anyone who might be interested this is just to let you know that my mother was the last Cotton Queen of Great Britain. She was working in Whittle’s Mill in Longriidge, near Preston, and as Miss Preston she was chosen in June 1939. When war was declared in September her ‘reign’ was interrupted, and at the end of hostilities the competition was never revived. Many years later (when she was in her eighties) I remarked to her that she was still the reigning Cotton Queen! – the local press picked up on this and even BBC radio and television, and she enjoyed a brief spell back in the limelight, which thrilled her immensely!

    • John 1st September 2017

      Hi Howard – sorry to comment so late n your post. I’ve only just found this online. I’m organising an exhibition at Leeds Industrial Museum this November and we will be featuring Elsie’s story as the last Cotton Queen of Great Britain. It’s a great story. If you’d like any more information on the exhibiton, I’d be happy to tell you more.

  • Trevor Rowley 30th January 2012

    Further to the above from Howard, and as part of the 2012 programme of talks promoted by Tameside History Club, on Wednesday 29th February, Rebecca Conway will talk about the “Cotton Queens of the North West”. This will be in conjunction with Manchester Histories Festival. The talk will be at Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 7SG. To book your free place, phone 0161 342 4242.

    Forthcoming talks will be “Labours rise and fall in Ashton 1914-1922” on Weds 18th April and “Tameside Olympians” on Weds 20th June.


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