The Rose Queen Remembered

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By Anne Hughes

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First Published 28/7/2021
Last Updated 17/1/2022

 

We’ve been enjoying the Heald Green Festival now for 21 years but it’s precursor, the St Catherine’s Rose Queen,
had been held for many, many years before that.  Anne Hughes reminds us of the history of the Rose Queen.

 

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Fig. 1 Jean Bentley - first Rose Queen 1938
Courtesy of St. Catherine's Archive
Click On Image To View

 

Back in 1938, St Catherine’s was a small building in a field on Outwood Road, with a good  congregation and a fairly large Sunday School.  It was decided to organise a Fete, and a Mrs Potter; who had moved to Heald Green from Gorton where the family had attended St. Philips Church; suggested that they have a Rose Queen.  St. Philips had had a Rose Queen for some years, the first Rose Queen having been the idea of a vicar in North Manchester.

The members of the Sunday School chose Jean Bentley as the first ‘Queen’. Her attendants all belonged to the Sunday School and members of the Sunday School not in the retinue took part in various tableaus, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ being one; individual girls portrayed the ‘Nations’ and ‘ Nursery Rhymes’.  The Cheadle Band led the procession round the village and played during the afternoon. After the impressive ceremony of the coronation everyone could enjoy the  side shows and stalls and sit down to tea and cakes in the church (which was then the current church hall building).  The day was rounded off with dancing from 7.30 – 11pm in the evening. The weather was good, and they raised £26.

 

The venture had been a success so it was repeated in 1939 and raised £30.  There was no Rose Queen or Fete in 1940 but it was back to normal in 1941 and raised £45.  By 1944 all the proceeds were going to the Church Room Extension Fund to provide  an adequate kitchen, cloakrooms and small meeting rooms. 

In all the early reports it is emphasised how well the children had been trained in their various parts and parents congratulated on managing to dress the children so well despite the rationing in place during the war years.  Betty Hobson (nee Royle), Queen in 1945, did this for many years.

For a good many years all the children in the procession and the Band had a party tea after the crowning.  Although the children loved their teas, they thought that they were missing on out on ‘all the fun of the fair’, so the teas were discontinued.

 

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Fig. 2 Sample Programme from 1943
Courtesy of St. Catherine's Archive
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Click here for more Rose Queen memorabilia

 

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Fig. 4 Rose Queen 1956
© Antony Pownall
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Fig. 5 Public Hall Playing Fields 1969
© Sue Mallinson
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Fig. 3 Procession near Neal Ave 1950 
© Stockport Image Archive
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When the present church was built in 1956 the Fete moved to ‘Mr Meredith’s field’ (now Village Hall field). One very wet summer we had to have the crowning in the church, so we brought all the stalls into the church grounds and it continued like that until the last Rose Queen, Natalie Ousby, was crowned in 1995. 

The Rose Queen Fete became an established event, everyone involved took part in the procession.  The date moved from the 1st Saturday in July to the last Saturday in June.  Rose Buds did not appear on the scene until 1957 when Ann Robinson was crowned, and the last one Lucy Hodge was in 1993. 

The evening dance ceased to take place as the setting up and dismantling of stage and sideshows were beginning to take much longer.

 

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Fig. 6 Cowboys! 1971/2
© Sue Mallinson
Click On Image To View
 

“Wow fantastic pictures. I remember when there used to be rows of chairs on the field at the back of the public hall. To watch the fancy dress and rose queen presentations. You had to get there early to get a seat."
- Colin Wolstenholme, Facebook, 2021

“I was a harem girl in an orange bikini [Ed: 1970, 'Turkish Delight' tableau] overlaid with itchy orange net puffy trousers and top with flip flops and it absolutely chucked it down."
- Helen Morgan, Facebook, 2021
Click here to view the 1970 Rose Queen Programme

We had a grand celebration in 1988 when we held a luncheon for former Queens and people who had been a prominent part of the planning team. A special banner was made and the ‘Queens’ joined the procession round the village.

As the years went by changes took place, a number of our local tradespeople lent us their open back lorries so that the Rose Buds and Queens (retiring and new) could, with their retinues,  form  tableaus, we  used the milk floats from the local dairy and even a cleaned up lorry from the coal merchant.
 

The Cubs and Scouts took part and from 1970’s  the Cubs usually chose a theme eg ‘Moses and the children of Israel’, ‘Plant a tree in ‘73’, ‘Robin Hood and his Merry Men’.  The Brownies and Guides contented themselves with just parading. The Sapphire Dancing Troupe and other guest performers were a regular part of the procession and gave a performance during the afternoon as did the Band.  Charles Lindsey’s model train rides were very popular.

We had various bands to lead us including the Alderley Scout Band, Sale District Silver Band, and the longest serving the Northenden Pipe Band.  All three are still performing.

From at least the 1980’s the Rose Queen and Rose Bud during their “year of Office” raised very large sums of money for the charity of their choice.  One of the Queen’s chose as her charity the very first children’s Hospice ‘Helen House’.
Another feature of the Rose Queen and Rose Bud’s term of office was the holding of ‘At Homes’.  All the Rose Queen’s/May Queens in the area were invited to a social evening.  The aim being to raise money for their chosen charity.
Invitations were also issued inviting Queens/Rose Buds to the actual crowning ceremonies and to take part in the procession. 
 

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Fig. 8 Brownies in Parade 1992
© Cynthia Mellish
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Fig. 7 Jubilee Rose Queen 1977
© Sue Mallinson
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Fig. 9 Rose Queen Procession 1990
© Cosgriff family
Click On Image To Watch Video (YouTube)
 

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Fig. 10 Full List of Rose Queens and Rose Buds
© St Catherines
Click on either image to view the full list

 

If you have any photos, programmes or other memorabilia from the Rose Queen, or other St Catherine’s events, we would be very happy to add them to our collections in both the Heald Green Heritage and St. Catherine's libraries — please email them to or healdgreenheritage@gmail.com or stcathslinkline@gmail.com — they will be attributed to you on the website, and, if you can, tell us as much as possible about the event, when it was and who is in the photo.

As of Jan 2022, we are missing programmes for the following years : 1941, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 58, 60, 79, 80, 81, 94

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