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Queen Cotton

About the film

'Queen Cotton' is a Technicolor introduction to the manufacture and design of both woven and printed cotton fabrics, the products of which are presented in a stunning fashion show.


Release year
Cecil Musk
Production company
Merton Park Studios Ltd
Terence Egan Bishop
Jimmy Rogers
William Alwyn
C. Beaumont
Sound recording
Al Rhind
Running time (minutes)
13 mins 49 secs
Technicolor Adviser
Jack Cardiff
Assistant Director
Don Weeks

Original Description

Lancashire Cotton
'Cranes swing out over the docks of Manchester. Bales of raw cotton come in from all over the world for the looms of Lancashire. Even in wartime Lancashire supplied the world’s cotton goods.
The film includes a display of fashions in fascinating cotton fabrics by well-known dress designers.'
(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1941)


  • The fashion show at the end of Queen Cotton was a part of an export trade exhibition organised by the UK Cotton Board in 1941 that was sent to the Americas and South Africa.
  • This is the only known title in the British Council Film Collection to feature a female narrator, though her identity is unknown.
  • The list of designers who contributed to the outfits seen in the film includes Edward Molyneux, Norman Hartnell (then Dressmaker to the Queen), Victor Stiebel, Charles Creed, Digby-Morton, Worth, and Peter Russell.


Click below - or click the link to the right - to see a transcript of the film


English Voiceover

In the north-west corner of England lies Lancashire whose looms, for 200 years, have given the world its cotton goods. The air is full of the moisture so kind to cotton yarn. Under its green slopes is coal to turn the machinery, and from these Pennine hills rise countless streams whose waters, slowly filtered through mill-stone grit, gain the chemical purity necessary for printing and finishing cotton fabrics. Cranes swing out over the docks of Manchester, great city of textiles, hauling out of the holds of ships big bales of raw cotton. Cotton from every continent. Cotton for the spindles and looms of Lancashire. Cotton for the yarn, which is exported all over the world.


English Voiceover

As fast as the raw cotton comes into the docks, packing cases of finished goods go out. This is a particularly important consignment of dresses on their way to South America. A fashion collection, organised and created by the leading manufacturers and couturiers of Great Britain. A collection so representative has never before been collected, even in peacetime, far less in war. The leading designers have excelled themselves in exploring the infinite possibilities of cotton fabrics. Science is producing new dress materials in cotton, and cotton mixtures, and the hands of British designers are turning them into beautiful new styles. At one time, only simple dresses were made in cotton. Today, cotton materials are used for elaborate gowns, and will satisfy the highest ambition of the designers’ art.


English Voiceover

Lancashire can produce an amazing variety of cotton fabrics because she uses more sorts of cotton than any other country in the world. Cottons from America, Egypt, the West Indies, Brazil, Peru, Africa, India - they all find their way into the mills of Lancashire. Which of all these many sorts of cotton is the proper one to use for any particular purpose is determined not by rule of thumb, but by scientific research. At the laboratories of the British Cotton Industry Research Association every aspect of cotton manufacture undergoes thorough scientific investigation. A great deal of this research is concerned with the structure and qualities of the cotton fibres themselves; and day by day, more and more is learned about the characteristics of the many different kinds of cotton and their spinning and weaving properties.


English Voiceover

This information is tabulated and passed on to the practical men in the mill. In these days of progress the cotton fibre is allowed is allowed to have no private life that is not subject to minute inspection under the microscope. Chemists have produced magic potions which detect easily the difference between the cotton and the other fibres with which it may be mixed. And the qualities of those other fibres are also an important part of the work carried on at the splendidly equipped laboratory.


English Voiceover

In this piece of fabric are strands of cotton, wool, silk, and rayon. The human eye can’t tell the difference, but this chemical solution can, picking out each one in a different colour. And as a result of the work that is done here, new uses and new ways of blending cotton with other fabrics are being discovered daily and carried into big-scale production.


English Voiceover

Somewhere in the strands of this sliver may be hidden new textures, new uses, new styles, new fashions. In these early stages of manufacture the finished qualities of the fabric are decided: texture, weight, appearance. All these things depend upon the machines and those who prepare the cotton for the looms. The machines are the latest engineering science can provide, and they are operated by descendants of families who have been spinning fine cotton since Crompton first invented his spinning mule nearly 200 years ago. The mule, by the way, is still in use, for no better way of spinning the very finest of yarns has been invented. Bolton still exports such yarns to the rest of the world.


English Voiceover

Now, let the looms of Lancashire tell their own story as they weave their symphony in cotton for the people of the world.


English Voiceover

Colour, which looks as though the rainbow had been captured and held to ransom in the workshops of Lancashire, reminds us that not all of the beautiful designs are woven. Many are printed in these colours in which the skill of the chemist unites with the art of the designer. These colours may have to live through many cheerful days of usefulness, perhaps under the glare of a tropical sun, and their brightness is being determined now through the skill with which these hands are mixing together the seemingly vague quantities of pigments.


English Voiceover

The printing of designs on cloth at first sounds as if it were very much a matter of mass production. Yet although these designs are destined to be produced on thousands of yards of cloth every one of those yards will bear the imprint of an artist’s hand and brain. The designs are prepared by skilled craftsmen for engraving on copper rollers. A delicate needle traces out each intricate detail of the design and transfers it exactly to the copper. Minute inspection under the magnifying glass ensures that the design will print clearly and accurately. A difficult job when you remember that each design is in several colours with a separate roller for each


English Voiceover

Meanwhile, the machines that will print the cotton are waiting. The colours are mixed, the cotton has been woven into long rolls of fabric. The time has come for us to see how, through the cooperation of chemists, mixers, designers, engravers, engineers, and weavers, the machines capture the colours of the rainbow and fix them onto a roll of cotton.


English Voiceover (Female)

You know, fashion is too often considered the exclusive property of a few wealthy women. In this collection of dresses for South America, The British Cotton Board Colour, Style, and Design Centre has assembled for all women the work of famous fashion houses whose names read like inscriptions from the walls of the temple of fashion: Molyneux, Hartnell, Stiebel, Pacard, La Chass, Creed, Worth, Digby-Morton, Peter Russell. And helped by materials cleverly patterned to assist in the cutting, cotton now hangs in those lovely lines which we thought belonged only to silk and satin. Day dresses, suits, and evening gowns as well. The greatest designers and couturiers in the world now create, out of cotton, clothes that still excite admiration and envy but can cost... well, shall we say,  shillings instead of guineas.


English Voiceover

So the looms of Lancashire go on weaving for the world. For in peace or war, Britain delivers the goods.