Ashington Miners Holiday week of 1952 with the coronation of Her Majesty the Coal Queen - 21 year old Mrs. Sally Smith

The Ashington Miners’ Holiday week of 1952 with the coronation of “Her Majesty the Coal Queen” – 21 year old Mrs. Sally Smith. Mr Donald Hindson, General Manager, placed the crown on Mrs. Smith’s head commenting that it was rather unusual to associate a queen with coal, but “as there have been coal barons and King Cole, why not a coal queen?”

Donald Hindson, General Manager of the National Coal Board once commented that it was rather unusual to associate a queen with coal, but “as there have been coal barons and King Cole, why not a coal queen?”

1954: The Bedlingtonshire Coal Queen Gillian McNair, with her fiancé Cyril Richardson.

1954: The Bedlingtonshire Coal Queen Gillian McNair, with her fiancé Cyril Richardson.

The Coal Queen pageant was a tradition that ran until the 1980s within mining communities. Coal Queens could be the wife, sister or daughter of pit workers and would be crowned each year at local miners’ picnics or carnivals. The competition added a touch of glamour and femininity to the heavy, dirty and gritty nature of their work.

regional Coal Queens posing at a railway station for the National Coal Queen final at Blackpool in 1982

The regional Coal Queens posing at a railway station for the National Coal Queen final at Blackpool in 1982.

This set explores the tradition and history of Coal Queens, their place in the local community and the fashion of the times in which the competition took place.

1979: Coal Queens being paraded on a float at the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic held at Ashington. Pictured in the centre in blue is the Picnic Queen and to the right in the red sash is the Northumberland Coal Queen.

1979: Coal Queens being paraded on a float at the Northumberland Miners’ Picnic held at Ashington. Pictured in the centre in blue is the Picnic Queen and to the right in the red sash is the Northumberland Coal Queen.

These photographs are from the collections held by Northumberland Archives. Feel free to share them within the spirit of the Commons.

Please follow the link to view this collection and many more on our online catalogue.

About The Author

Avatar of Emily
Assistant Curator

Originally trained as a Commercial Photographer, I graduated from Newcastle in 2013 with a BA in Digital Creative Practice. Following this I worked for the National Archives across Archives in the North East of England, specialising in digitisation and online engagement in Heritage. My work focuses primarily of the social impact of historical photography, but also the potential in creative and digital reuse of photographic collections. I am now continuing this work at Museums & Archives Northumberland, working alongside Retronaut and sourcing content to increase public engagement with our photographic collections. This work is funded through the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, run by the Museums Association.

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