Will the Wetherby News dress be modelled again?

Olivia Brown in the dress made from newspaper print. (S)
Olivia Brown in the dress made from newspaper print. (S)

Last week we appealed for information about a young lady pictured modelling a newsprint dress outside the Wetherby News office in Westgate in 2003. It wasn’t long before we had a response.

Coun Gerald Wilkinson e-mailed to say that the young lady was his granddaughter Olivia Brown aged 12 when the picture was taken. He was going to her 20th birthday celebration the following day. The old photo appearing in the Wetherby News again would no doubt prove a talking point at that event. Gerald took the eight-year-old newspaper cutting headed ‘Coronation dress that was literally in the news’ into the office and arrived at the same time as Hazel Waterhouse.

She had the identical cutting and is the owner of the dress which she had taken to the Wetherby News in response to a request for Coronation memorabilia back in 1952.

Hazel spoke of being a young girl and wanting to enter the fancy or unusual dress parade that was to take place in Wetherby during Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation which was part of the parish council’s celebrations.

There was a family discussion as to what creation the young girl should be fitted out in. It was eventually decided that she would enter as Miss Wetherby News wearing a dress printed with pages of the Wetherby News which had been on sale the previous Friday. These headlined the Coronation Show – the Wetherby Agricultural Show at Whitsuntide which was always held the Tuesday following the Whit weekend and had been renamed for that year. The show president for the year was Harry Cooper who was proprietor of the Wetherby News.

Making the dress was a family affair. Her mother Hilda Gardiner bought some plain butter muslin material and after it had been printed, cut out the material and sewed it together. Her uncle Les Johnson who worked for the Wetherby News was enlisted to print the material on an old Dawson, Payne and Elliot, Otley Wharfedale Printing Press which was about 50 years old and only normally brought into service when the more modern machinery broke down.

At that time the printing machinery was located in the Angel yard at the back of the Wetherby News office.

After the dress had been made, it was decorated with red, white and blue ribbon ready to be worn on the big day by the young Hazel Gardiner.

Coronation day was not a day for wearing a summery dress at an event on Scaur Bank. It rained and rained all day long. Hazel was among the prize-winners but didn’t win the top fancy dress prize. She had also entered for various races and was amongst the prize-winners presented with prizes by a young man named Mick Waterhouse who she married five years later.

She still cherishes her Wetherby News dress and has happy memories of the occasion. The dress (and husband Mick) is the only memento she has of that happy day. Somewhere there must be photographs or programmes of that Coronation Day event – and I’m sure they would also be of interest to the people planning the Jubilee events next June.

It is possible that the dress will be worn again. Hazel’s granddaughter Kirsty is now 23-years-old and thinks the dress would be her size – so that may be another story…

Meanwhile, we’re still hunting for information about the other much older Wetherby News dress (about 1908 vintage) owned by another reader.