A CARNIVAL queen who missed out on her big day as star of the show and died the next day will be carried to her funeral in a horse drawn carriage.

Gladys Sparks never got the chance to lead the Barnard Castle Meet parade through the town on May 28.

The 99-year-old had enjoyed the event since she was four and was thrilled when she was invited to be carnival queen this year but when the date arrived she was under doctor’s orders to stay at home.

The meet committee had organised a surprise carriage ride for Mrs Sparks but she instead proudly waved off her attendants – her granddaughters and great-grandchildren – who carried out the role on her behalfand pictures of her taking part in previous parades were displayed on the carriage itself.

She passed away the next day.

Her granddaughter, Sue Shuttleworth, said it had been a special moment for Mrs Sparks to see the carriage leave the day before.

“It was like she was at peace,” she said.

“She said she would see it if it was the last thing she did and even though she did not get the carriage ride, she saw them leave and seemed so peaceful.”

Mrs Shuttleworth described her gran as the matriarch of the family, with a strong Christian faith who was well known for her work with the Mothers’ Union and playing badminton well into her 90s.

But it was taking on a character at the annual meet parades that she particularly looked forward to and would often get her whole family to make a whole cast.

Her previous appearances included Mary Poppins, Queen Elizabeth II and Lady Godiva when rode through the streets on a real horse in the 1990s.

The horses leading the procession for her final parade will wear purple plumes – Mrs Sparks’ favourite colour.

The carriage will travel through her birthplace of Cockfield, Copley where she lived until she was 92 and then to Barnard Castle where she spent her final years at Charles Dickens Lodge.

Her funeral will be at Cockfield Methodist Chapel, on June 11 at 2pm, before she is laid to rest at Lynesack Cemetery. Mourners are invited to wear colourful clothes and celebrate Mrs Sparks’ life at Butterknowle Village Hall after the service– the venue where she would have celebrated her 100th birthday on July 12.

Mrs Shuttleworth said: “She loved her family but was also a good friend to a lot of people and there will be a lot of people who have memories of her.”

Donations in lieu of flowers will go to Cockfield Methodist Chapel and the British Heart Foundation.