IN 1930 Frances Lockett, a 19 year old mill worker from Hyde, was voted Britain’s first Cotton Queen. The competition was open to any woman who worked in the cotton industry aged between 16 and 26. It was established to revive the declining industry and all the cotton towns in the North West put forward girls they thought had a chance of winning.
After local heats, the finalists attended a ceremony at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool where Frances was declared Britain’s first Cotton Queen.
It was a huge honour for Frances and for Hyde. After being crowned, the town gave her a civic reception, with more than 20,000 people turning out to congratulate her.
Frances spent her year as Cotton Queen travelling the country, promoting cotton at exhibitions, parades and public events. She was treated to champagne receptions and given gifts such as this beautiful beaded dress. It was a very prestigious and glamorous role for a cotton mill worker from Hyde who had been used to working on the machines every day.
After her year of fame, Frances returned to work at J&J Ashton’s Mill in Hyde where she worked as a weaver until her marriage to local policeman James Burgess in 1937.
Frances’ story features in the new Unravelled exhibition at Portland Basin Museum which explores Tameside’s cotton heritage. The exhibition also includes textile art produced by local schoolchildren as part of the Tameside to the Taj project in partnership with Z-arts Manchester.
Frances’ family donated her dress to the people of Tameside and it is on permanent display in the museum.
Portland Basin Museum is open 10am-4pm Tuesday to Sunday, entry is free.
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Cotton Queen Frances Lockett