Girls night out at Knutsford Heritage Centre!
But this wasn’t a wedding party or a fashion show but a special event marking the opening of the summer’s highlight exhibition entitled ‘Dressing the May Queen’. The unique display charts 122 years of the history of Knutsford’s much loved festival through a collection of ten exquisite May Queen dresses and crowns.
With champagne and canapés served by Gusto, the evening was attended by a host of local dignitries. – Including Knutsford Mayor Miss Jennifer Holbrook, May Day Committee Chairman Ken Gresty, this year’s May Queen Katie Smith and a number of former May Queens including Joan Platt, May Queen of 1935.
Cllr George Walton described the evening as “A great ‘event’ for Knutsford” and Viscount Ashbrook of Arley Hall interrupted proceedings with a speech praising the hard work involved in pulling the exhibition together.
The centrepiece of the show is the 1887 dress worn by that year’s Queen Mary E Howarth. The delicate dress, shoes, stockings and crown are all on loan from Cheshire Museum Service and are displayed together in a custom built cabinet. The dress also marks the year in which the festival was bestowed its ‘Royal’ title when the then Prince and Princess of Wales were so delighted by their visit to the event that they allowed the committee to use the prefix.
Jean Holland, 1947 remembers her dress-fitting…“A visit to the dressmaker Miss Millie Brookes in Sugar Pitt Lane was arragned and having decided on the design of the dress, the necessary clothing coupons were obtained on the black market in order to buy the white satin material”
Another highlight of the display is the 1951 dress worn by Patricia Brown in the Festival of Britain year. The wonderfully elegant dress that depicts the period yet still seems contemporary was designed by the Co-op in Balloon Street, Manchester and was a firm favourite amongst the ladies! Similarly, the dress of Ida Rose Jackson, May queen in 1919 caught the eyes with its Dutch Satin embellished with pearls and silver trimmings.
The opening night also marked the end of months of hard work spent curating this unique exhibition. As each dress has been lovingly cleaned, steamed and displayed, accompanying text tells of charming memoirs of the queen’s special day. As Grace Pemberton, 2003 recalls… “As we set off in the horse and carriage, the rain came out and a big, white umberella went up!”
A wonderful insight into the history of Knutsford’s May Day Festival, this exhibition is not to be missed. The show is supported by a lottery grant of £9,165 and it is in conjunction with the Three Shires Textile Festival which takes place in July. Admission to the exhibition is free and the Heritage Centre is open Tuesdays- Sundays, 11am -4pm