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Royalty in the High Peak

Amanda Barton

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HIgh PeakChapel en le FrithCarnivalWell DressingQueen

Carnival Royalty

Like many of its neighbouring communities in the High Peak, Chapel en le Frith has a longstanding history of carnival queens. The tradition is often associated with a community’s carnival or well dressing which originated in Chapel in the Gala days of the 1920s.

Each queen becomes the guardian of a silver rose bowl which is inscribed with the name of all her predecessors and the date of their reign. 14 year-old Hannah Lomas is the current holder of the bowl which records Miss M. Hulley as the first holder of the title in 1948. 

Jeanette Saxby’s family have a close relationship with the tradition. Now Chair of Chapel’s Carnival Committee, Jeanette was crowned in 1978 and her daughters, Rachel and Cathryn, went on to inherit the title themselves in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Jeanette was also Queen of the Peak, a title bestowed by Chapel as the so-called ‘Capital of the Peak’. This more senior title can only be awarded to someone who has previously held another royal title. 

Carnival Queens

As Jeanette explains, some things have changed: “There aren’t as many rose queens representing villages any more as the number of carnivals has reduced. The rose queen was very much a representative of the village, so there was more focus. It was really a big thing to be carnival queen. I had thirteen in my retinue. These days, the floats are covered in plastic flowers; in my day it was crepe paper flowers and the colour ran when it rained!”

The Carnival Queen is attended by her retinue which can comprise a junior queen, princess, rosebud, petal and attendants or pageboys. The youngest ‘petals’ may be only five or six years old, while the minimum age for the Queen is thirteen. 

Carnival Queens

Selection of Chapel royalty takes place in February each year and, as in the past, each applicant takes part in a short interview. The procedure is, however, much less daunting than it used to be, as Jeanette explains: “The selection of the Queen of the Peak used to be a big dance in the works canteen at Ferodo. Each candidate had to walk down a catwalk, in their best white carnival dress, to be interviewed by staff from Granada studios such as Pat Phoenix.  There were two or three hundred people in the audience.”

The role of carnival royalty extends beyond Carnival Day. ‘Courts of Queens’ events are held throughout the year at indoor venues including the Dome in Buxton. Trophies are now awarded to queens, a tradition which began in 1990, but the courts are not now followed by an evening dance attended by the whole family, as they were in the past. “People didn’t have transport back then, so it was a local family day out”, says Jeanette. 

This year’s Queen, Charlotte Jodrell, will be crowned at Chapel Carnival on June 18th. If you are interested in joining the committee or can help on the day, visit Chapel Carnival’s Facebook page or call Jeanette Saxby on 01298 813829.