Burtonwood Dahlia Queen, A Degrading Spectacle!

Today’s blog focuses around an article written by the Reverend Alfred Mansfield Mitchell of St. Michael’s Church Burtonwood. It was published in a local paper in September 1935.

Monica Chenery, Dahlia Queen 1935, with her retinue

Monica Chenery, Dahlia Queen 1935, with her retinue

The Reverend Mitchell was St Michael’s longest serving incumbent and a much loved vicar, by the date of this article he had already been in post for over 40 years.

Whilst most of us may see Rose Queens, May Queens and the likes as a quaint and innocent reminder of times gone by, this was not an opinion shared by the Rev. Mitchell. Copied below is an extract from his comments made to various local papers that year and published in the Parish magazine:

“The number of Queens is growing rapidly he said. Every year witnesses an increase in the number of claimants to thrones and sceptres. Presently it is not unlikely ‘Queeneries’ will have to be provided in the form of houses of retreat for the treatment of young girls whose brains have been turned or stunted by coronation ceremonies

One Queen in the multitude of Queens we have not yet heard of is ‘the Butcher Queen’. Why not have one and the coronation could most appropriately be held in an abattoir or slaughter house?”

He goes on to raise a further complaint with the festival stating that:

“It is misnamed when called the Dahlia Queen. It has much more sympathy with beer than with flowers. Poor Dahlia it is nowhere. Why wantonly misname things? If a spade is a spade, call it a spade. If beer is beer call it beer nothing less nothing more.

Drinks, noise, fighting form an unholy trinity on August Monday in what should be, would be, a quiet village if the riff-raff of all the country round were not invited to visit and desecrate its fields and lanes with nerve-wracking noises, drinking orgies, and street quarrels.”

The Dahlia Queen was heavily sponsored and patronised by Burtonwood Brewery through the brewery’s owners the Forshaw family. As might be guessed from his writings above, the Rev. Mitchell was a strong supporter of the Band of Hope (an organisation which encouraged tee-totalism and taught children the dangers dangers of the “evil drink”).

Perhaps with the differing opinions of the Forshaw family and the Rev. Mitchell it was inevitable that an event like the Dahlia Queen would become a battle ground for public opinion.

If this blog entry has piqued your interest there will a display at the Museum from 8th July to 2ndSeptember looking at Burtonwood Brewery and the Band of Hope. Burtonwood Brewery is celebrating its 150th Anniversary and has played an important part in the town’s history, but no story of alchohol in the town would be complete without a look at the temperance movement which was so strong in Warrington. Part of this movement was the Band of Hope, who campaigned against the dangers of alcohol, and offered youngsters a wide range of activities aimed at keeping them away from the drinking culture of the day.

This article was originally posted on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017.