Queen Victoria Road in the Revoe area is named after Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch 1837-1901. But who was the Queen who gave her name to another street in central Blackpool, namely Queen Vera Road?
Queen Vera Road, to give its correct title (and not Queen Vera’s Road as indicated by the street sign), is an otherwise unremarkable 50-foot cul-de-sac located off Edward Street between the former Royal Mail building and Abingdon Street Market. There are no offices or shops and no postal addresses; the street is used solely for vehicles delivering goods to the market. It lays claim to being the shortest street in Blackpool.
It came into being in 1937, the year in which Miss Vera Greenwood, a mill worker from Rochdale, won the title of Cotton Queen of Great Britain. In connection with her duties of championing the Lancashire cotton industry Queen Vera paid an official visit to the recently refurbished Abingdon Street Market. After her visit the stallholders of the market decided to name the cul-de-sac in her honour as Britain’s reigning cotton queen, and as an informal tribute to commemorate her visit. Blackpool Council later accepted it as a ‘proper’ street name; before that it had just been part of Edward Street.
Born in Whitworth, Vera won the Miss Rochdale title to qualify for the national contest. She was just 17 when she was crowned during the coronation year of King George VI, one of only 10 girls to hold the title. The winner was crowned in the Tower Circus arena. In her acceptance speech Queen Vera said, “I promise to do all I can for the cotton industry of Lancashire”.
As the national Cotton Queen, Vera visited Pinewood studios, had two crowded days in London where she stayed at The Dorchester, being received by the Lord Mayor and Mayoress of London at the Mansion House, watched Parliament in action accompanied by two MPs and attended the British Industries Fair in Earl’s Court. Vera also attended the Blackpool premiere of the film Cotton Queen (1937). You can imagine the change of lifestyle from working in a noisy mill!
One of the highlights of her stay was receiving a message from her fellow Rochdale lass Gracie Fields, who was sure she would have a wonderful time! Vera said her year had been so exciting that it was difficult to put into words.
At the end of her year she returned home to Rochdale for a traffic-stopping parade through the crowded streets and it was then back to work at the Dura Doubling Company Mill in Whitworth. Vera, however, later left the textile industry and went to work in Lewis’s store in Manchester and then Blackpool.
It was the decade when cotton was king… Vera Greenwood was queen.
The Cotton Queen contest was started by the Cotton Board and the Daily Dispatch newspaper in 1930 to help promote the Lancashire cotton Industry following a period of decline in sales both at home and abroad. This was due to India’s increased cotton trade and the recession in Britain following the depression of the 1920s.
Of the ten Cotton Queens only two returned to work in the mills; the others took advantage of their year out – a chance to start a new life away from the drudgery of the mills. Only the first and last Queens returned to mill life. The last queen, Elsie Kearsley in 1939, had just arrived at Scarborough for a function when war was announced, so she had to return home, attending no more duties. In fact she had hoped that the tradition would be restarted after the war so that she could complete her year of office, but it was not to be. Almost 200,000 operatives left the cotton mills during the war, which had a serious effect on the economy.
In 1994 the Blackpool Civic Trust honoured Queen Vera once again, inviting her to unveil a commemorative blue plaque at one of the locations on the Trust’s Town Centre Heritage Trail. She arrived in triumph on a vintage 1890s horse-drawn carriage kindly supplied by Trevor Box of Box Brothers. At this time Vera Bunn - her married name - was a seventy-four-year-old grandmother living in Poulton-le-Fylde, and she had fond memories of her year in the national spotlight.
Streets are often named after great public figures, such as Queen Victoria Road in Revoe, so Queen Vera was very flattered to have a road named after her, and that it had survived.
Sadly Queen Vera passed away in 2003 at her home in Poulton-le-Fylde having suffered a stroke.