What’s the history of Gatley’s Rose and Festival Queens?

Well, what started almost as a joke, that we should claim that 2008 was the 60th anniversary of Gatley Festival, has turned into fascinating research into just what is the history behind the Gatley Rose Queen and now Festival. A history well worth capturing and recording before it’s too late!

The first Rose Queen was Eileen Chandley in 1932. Actually, that year she was called a Gala Queen but there was a Rosebud Queen. Before that there were 9 years of a Gatley Festival, but no Rose Queens. So, the first YMCA Gatley Festival was in 1922 making 2008 our 86th year! But the cost of the parade got so expensive, they had to change to a different style event. The main cost of the Festivals…was the Jazz Bands!

We have made contact with Rose Queens from 1941, Margaret Platt, 1943, Muriel Machin, 1945, Barbara Done and 1946, Sheila Patterson and Margaret Griffiths from 1961.

Looking over a few pictures it seems that the Rose Queen carries white roses and the Retiring Queen carries red roses. In 1940, the Stockport Advertiser had a big article about the Rose Queen, Betty Johnson, the Mayor of Manchester, Mr Harold White and many more councillors and dignitaries attended the festival.

The Rose Queen was organised by the YMCA in support of servicemen. Many will remember the YMCA hall at the rear of the Recreation ground where Bethany church now stands.

By the 1950s the Rose Queen, still held in the park, included children’s fancy dress competitions and had a fun fair with swings and a helter-skelter.

At some point the Rose Queen must have stopped and after a gap, Gatley Festival was started up again sometime in the early 1980’s, after one year in Gatley Park the event moved to the fields behind Gatley Hill House where it is held today.

The Gatley Festival still retains the traditions, with a Festival Queen and Rosebuds, a parade through Gatley and field events with a fun fair. But of course, much has changed! Not least the size of the fun-fair rides! It’s an interesting observation on social change that whereas in the days of the Rose Queen, she would be about 18, maybe older, today the Festival Queens are much younger, maybe just 11 or 12. An older teenage Queen just wouldn’t be cool!

Have a look through our photos and please look at the Queens Roll Call at the bottom of the page and click on individual names to see photos and press cuttings from that year and if you can help fill in any of the gaps please contact us.