Celebrating May Day is part of an English tradition. Knutsford's first official May Day was inaugurated by Rev Robert Clowes on 2nd May 1864 when Annie Sarah Pollitt was chosen as the first Queen of the May. In 1887 the crowning was watched by the Prince and Princess of Wales who granted permission for the occasion to be known thereafter as Knutsford 'Royal' May Day.
Monica Drinkwater, May Queen in 1949, being presented with the flowers by Jack Daniel, manager Caldwell's Florists shop, 86 King Street. Courtesy of Patricia Simpson. (Click on image to enlarge).
It is not known when Caldwell's first provided flowers for the May Queen, or whether they provided the bouquet 'composed principally of the beautiful orchid odontoglossum Alexandra' presented to the Princess of Wales in 1887. Royal May Day programmes from 1900 to the present day indicate that Caldwell's advertised their florist's shop almost every year till 1963.
Pat Simpson, daughter of Jack Daniels manager of Caldwell's Florist shop at 86 King Street says that: 'The May Queen's bouquet and basket were made by Caldwell's by my Dad for many years, then by Daniel's Florists again by my Dad until his death in 1974. As you know the basket, always made up of carnations, was presented to the queen by Mr Collins the owner of the fairground. The bouquet, again carnations, was a gift from Caldwell's. When my Dad took over the business in the 1960s he continued the tradition'.
The basket of flowers presented to Monica Drinkwater by Mr Collins. Courtesy of Patricia Simpson. (Click on image to enlarge).
Knutsford Guardian, 5th May 1952 reports that Victoria Lee, May Queen went from the hairdresser 'to the giant fun fair for the presentation of a huge basket of flowers and a gift from Mr and Mrs Michael Collins. From there to Caldwell and Sons Ltd on King Street for her Victorian posy'.
The format of the Royal May Day programmes changed over time. Caldwell's full page advertisements were prominently displayed in the early programmes but later programmes include far more advertising with many local firms taking half page advertisements. Advertisements by other florists indicate that perhaps the basket presented by the fairground owner was not always acquired from Caldwell's. In 1914 there is an advertisement for Miss Smith, Florist, Old Market Place, King Street, in1957 one from Dunham Nurseries, Minshull Street, and between 1961 and 1967 advertisements for Ken Roe F.R.H.S. 69 King Street. Ken Roe was a former employee of Caldwell's.
Caldwells advert in 1963 Royal May Day programme. Courtesy of Knutsford Heritage Centre (Click on image to enlarge)
In 'A Century of Knutsford's Royal May Queens' Monica Hughes (nee Drinkwater) recalls:
'The memories of that day are still so vivid. I was treated like a celebrity and whisked here and there by taxi. First a visit to the hairdressers, then to the fair to be presented with a basket of flowers by Mr Collins, the fair owner, then to the florist for my bouquet and then finally back home to prepare for the afternoon's celebrations. Heady stuff for a fourteen year old girl.'