A line of ‘royalty’ going back to the start of the 1950s has played an important part in the life of South Holland.
They are the flower queens elected each year to play a starring role in the annual celebration of the district’s flower heritage.
For each of them, being crowned queen must have been a thrill, but that was particularly true for Jean Lambert, the youngest of nine.
Jean (78) was crowned Miss Tulipland in 1953, the same year as the Queen’s coronation 60 years ago, perfect timing for a self-confessed royalist.
She says the memories are becoming hazy now, but remembers clearly being the first girl from her street – Alexandra Road – to have been given the role.
Jean, now Tooley, says: “The whole of the street collected money and bought me a watch and I’ve still got it. A watch like that would have been expensive.”
Jean was the fourth flower queen: she remembers her predecessors were Joan Dolton (Roberts), followed by Joyce Lister (Lee), and then Beryl Patrick.
The format was very different in the early days with the queen and her attendants – Jean’s were Greta Foulsham, who moved to America, and Yvonne Coutanche, now Taylor, who lives at Peterborough – playing a key role in the traditional Tulip Time Sunday tours.
They would travel around the district, at that time filled with fields of colourful tulips, on three Sundays, varying the route each time.
Jean explains there was no flower parade in those days, and recalls she and her attendants were required to travel by the only available open-top vehicle – a funeral car.
Jean was courting her husband Les then, and he admits he was very proud of his 18-year-old girlfriend.
He says: “People used to stop us in the street and say, ‘Is that Jean Lambert you are with?’”
The couple, who live in Churchill Drive, Spalding, became engaged that year and have been married for 57 years.
They both worked in the bulb industry, Jean working for Geest for 35 years. In her time there she would organise the staff who would decorate the company’s float for the flower parade.
Jean says: “Every one of those tulip heads was pinned on individually. It took hours and hours. We would start on a Thursday night and sometimes still be finishing it on Saturday before the parade.
“The floats came into being because the big companies used to take the heads off the flowers anyway to make the bulbs grow and get a better crop and they were throwing them away.
“Growing bulbs is what Spalding was known for and now we are known for growing vegetables. It’s very sad it’s coming to an end.”