Miss Great Britain is a national beauty contest held annually in Britain since 1945. It is Britain's longest-running beauty pageant.[1]

History edit

Following World War Two, a number of seaside resorts around the United Kingdom introduced beauty contests. The first, held in Morecambe in 1945, went on to become Miss Great Britain.[2]

The contest began in the summer of 1945 under the name "Bathing Beauty Queen", organised by the Morecambe Town Council in partnership with the ‘Sunday Dispatch’ newspaper. Morecambe went on to become the home of Miss Great Britain between 1956 and 1989.[3]

The first ever Miss Great Britain final was watched by 4,300 people in a continuous downpour. The winner received a cup and according to the local newspaper "a paltry prize" of seven guineas as well as a swimsuit. Prize money increased to £100 the following year, £500 the next and reached £1000 in the fifties due to its popularity. The contest continued to offer the largest prize fund of any competition run by a municipal authority.[3]

Heats of Miss Great Britain took place in Mecca dance halls. Between 1951 and 1957 the winner of Miss Great Britain qualified for entry in the Miss World contest.[1]

The sixties saw the beginning of the decline in British seaside holidays with families increasingly able to afford trips abroad. A new competition format was needed and was realised with the introduction of television to Miss Great Britain in 1971, a Yorkshire Television production for ITV that drew an audience of millions. By 1978, the prize fund had increased to £10,000 thanks to the competition's sponsors, and the popularity of the competition was again on the rise.[3]

In 1981 the television rights were bought by the BBC. In 1984, the controller of BBC1 Michael Grade, announced that the 1985 contest would be the last televised on the BBC.[4] Grade stated that the contest "no longer merits national air time. They are an anachronism in this day and age of equality and verging on the offensive."[4] Jill Saxby, who later married the snooker star Willie Thorne therefore became the last Miss Great Britain to be crowned on television in 1985.

Morecambe Town Council put the contest up for sale following the 1989 final and there were no contests held for a number of years

The National Directors as of 2021 are former Miss Great Britain winner Saffron Hart and partner Matt Elliott.[1]

Notable Miss Great Britain Contestants edit

Notable contestants in the Miss Great Britain contest have included:

  • Anne Heywood, a film actor during the 1950s–80s, won the title in 1950 under her real name of Violet Pretty.[1]
  • Leila Williams, a presenter of the children's television programme Blue Peter between 1958 and 1962, won the title in 1957.[1]
  • Marti Caine, a comedian, competed in 1961 under her real name of Lynne Shepherd.[1]
  • Nina Carter, a future Page 3 girl, appeared in the 1971 final under her real name of Penny Mallett.[1]
  • Debbie Greenwood, who later became a breakfast television presenter, won the title in 1984.[1]
  • Danielle Lloyd, a model and TV personality, won the title in 2006.
  • Sophie Gradon, a model and TV personality, won the title in 2009.
  • Zara Holland won the title in 2015 and was stripped of it in 2016 after having sex on the TV dating show Love Island.
  • Preeti Desai, a model and actress, became the first woman of Indian descent to win when she took the title in 2006.
  • Leilani Dowding, an activist, TV personality, and former Page 3 girl and glamour model, became the first woman of Asian descent to win when she took the title in 1998.

2006 event edit

The 2006 title holder was Preeti Desai from North Yorkshire[5] who made history as the first winner of Indian ethnicity. She had come fifth in the pageant but was selected by a poll of newspaper readers to replace the original winner Danielle Lloyd, who had been stripped of the title following a scandal.[6][7] Lloyd's title was restored to her some years later[1] and she is included in the contest's list of previous winners.[8]

2007 event edit

Rachael Tennent, a project co-ordinator, was awarded the crown of Miss Great Britain. Along with the crown, the new titleholder was gifted a car, jewellery and a modelling contract. Tennent had previously competed for the Miss Scotland 2006 title which she placed 2nd runner-up. The event was held in Grosvenor House in Park Lane, London. Tennent did not complete her reign which resulted in Gemma Garrett (Miss Great Britain 1st Runner Up 2007) taking over the title of Miss Great Britain for the rest of the year.[9]

2009 event edit

The event took place on 12 May 2009 at the Café de Paris in Central London. A strong PR campaign was orchestrated to re-brand the event to the nation, with some 70,000 online entrants being whittled down through national heats to the final 12 girls. Heavily covered by the media, the eventual winner was Miss Newcastle - Sophie Gradon who won Miss Great Britain at the age of 23 years old.[10]

Title holders edit

Year Winner
1945 Lydia Reid
1946 June Rivers
1947 June Mitchell
1948 Pamela Bayliss
1949 Elaine Pryce
1950 Violet Pretty
1951 Marlene Dee
1952 Dorothy Dawn
1953 Brenda Mee
1954 Patricia Butler
1955 Jennifer Chimes
1956 Iris Waller
1957 Leila Williams
1958 Christine Mayo
1959 Valerie Martin
1960 Eileen Sheridan
1961 Libby Walker
1962 Joy Black
1963 Gillian Taylor
1964 Carole Redhead
1965 Diane Hickinbotham
1966 Carole Fletcher
1967 Sheila Forrest
1968 Yvonne Ormes
1969 Wendy Anne George
1970 Kathleen Winstanley
1971 Carolyn Moore
1972 Elizabeth Robinson
1973 Gay Spink
1974 Marilyn Ward
1975 Susan Cuff
1976 Dinah May
1977 Susan Hempel
1978 Patricia Morgan
1979 No contest
1980 Sue Berger
1981 Michelle Hobson
1982 Tracy Dodds (resigned)
Viviennne Farnen (replacement)
1983 Rose McGrory
1984 Debbie Greenwood
1985 Jill Saxby
1986 Lesley Ann Musgrave
1987 Linzi Butler
1988 Gillian Bell
1989 Amanda Dyson
1990 No contest
1991 No contest
1992 No contest
1993 Kathryn Middleton
1994 Michelle "Michaela" Pyke
1995 Sarah Jane Southwick
1996 Anita St. Rose
1997 Liz Fuller
1998 Leilani Dowding
1999 Cherie Pisani
2000 Michelle Walker
2001 Michelle Evans
2002 Yana Booth
2003 Nicki Lane
2004 Emma Spellar
2005 No contest
2006 Danielle Lloyd (stripped)
Preeti Desai (replacement)
2007 Rachael Tennent (resigned)
Gemma Garrett (replacement)
2009 Sophie Gradon
2010 Amy Carrier
2012 Charlotte Perkins
2013 Ashley Powell
2014 Shelby Tribble
2015 Zara Holland (stripped)
Deone Robertson (replacement)
2016 Ursula Carlton
2017 Saffron Hart
2018 Kobi-Jean Cole
2020 Jen Atkin (Miss) April Banbury (Ms)
2021 Eden McAllister (Miss) Kat Henry (Ms) Kirsty Fletcher (Ms Classic)
2022 Amy Meisak (Miss) Charlotte Casie Clemie (Ms) Nicoll Moss (Ms Classic)
2023 Madeleine Roche (Miss) Larissa Palmer-Hirst (Ms) Gina Broadhurst (Ms Classic)

Archives edit

Archives of Miss Great Britain are held at The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics. Most surviving material is held at Lancashire Archives as part of the Morecambe and Heysham Borough Council collection.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hill, Mike (28 November 2020). "Golden age of the beauty pageant when hopefuls flocked to Lancashire". Lancashire Evening Post. Archived from the original on 27 June 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  2. ^ Stearns, Peter N., ed. (2008). "Beauty Contests". The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World: 1750 to the Present. Vol. 1. OUP USA. p. 371. ISBN 9780195176322. Archived from the original on 27 June 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "Records of Miss Great Britain". Archives Hub. Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b "BBC to Stop Televising Beauty Pageants". The New York Times. 18 November 1984. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  5. ^ "Miss Great Britain for Scarborough?". The Northern Echo. 26 February 2008. Archived from the original on 17 April 2022. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  6. ^ "Miss GB stripped of beauty title". BBC News. 3 November 2006. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  7. ^ Herbert, Ian (25 November 2006). "How an Asian immigrant grew up to be Miss Great Britain". The Independent. Archived from the original on 15 May 2022.
  8. ^ "History of Miss Great Britain". Miss Great Britain. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Goodbye Rachel, Hello Gemma!". Miss Great Britain. 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 22 January 2009.
  10. ^ "ChronicleLive - News - Today's Chronicle - Winner of Miss Newcastle 2008 revealed". 9 May 2008. Archived from the original on 7 February 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2022.

External links edit