Wednesday, 26 March 2008

All The Fun Of The (Midsummer) Fair And The Diabolical Engine...

The scene at an early 20th century Midsummer Fair.
When my gran was a child, she always looked forward to the Midsummer Fair. She often recalled the journey to Midsummer Common from her family's home in Milton Road:

"As we crossed Victoria Avenue bridge, I’d be really excited, jumping about. You could hear the steam engines tooting on the common, and Dad would always smile and say, ‘They’re calling to you, my dear!’ ”

This account of a Midsummer Fair, from the Cambridge Daily News, 22/6/1922, makes a fascinating insight into what constituted "all the fun of the fair" in those days, and reveals a very noisy presence...

MIDSUMMER FAIR

Some Novel Features And "Still Growing Bigger."

Midsummer Fair was proclaimed this morning by the mayor (Councillor GP Hawkins) when crowds of people attended to witness the time-honoured ceremony. The old cry of "Biggest fair I've seen for years," suggests that the Fair is still growing. It certainly seems to cover a larger space than ever this year. The Fair covers practically the whole of Midsummer Common between Fort St George, Brunswick Walk and Victoria Avenue, including the greater part of Butt's Green. There are stalls, cocoanut shies, cake-walks, shooting galleries, hoop la's and roundabouts, with caravans of all possible varieties, including motor caravans. The roundabouts included some new arrivals, which took the name of "chair-o-planes". These are fitted with chairs hanging from long chains, and as the roundabout gathers speed, the passengers are swung outwards until they nearly attain a horizontal position. Another novelty is the "Mountain Slide", a sort of combination of toboggan ride and mat chute, with a fearsome "hump" about half-way down.

Thurston's roundabouts are again present, and number about six in all. They include their famous golden dragons, gondolas and motor scenic railways. Barker and Thurston's scenic railway, patronised by HRH Princess Victoria at King's Lynn on February 14th, 1920, is again present as are the galloping horses and many smaller ones. The Mysterious Castle has some interesting placards advertising "The Sinners Paradise" and "Laughing Gas For All": what really happens inside is a mystery that the curious must solve for themselves. Three circuses and numerous "laugh and grow fat" shows make up a good square mile of pleasure ground. There are the usual crockery and sweet stalls, rock kings, cheap jacks, fortune tellers and the like in unusual profusion. An objectionable feature this year is a diabolical engine that emits a banshee-like wail at frequent intervals. It ought to be smothered.

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