Bridport Carnivals in the 1920’s were major events in the town year. In June 1921 the day started early and ended late. Celebration and fun for all the family, while raising funds for the local hospital. Times were tough especially for the sick and needy, medial treatment had to be paid for or you needed to rely on charity. The country was going through a time of depression and unemployment following the first world war, so a day of fun was welcomed by the people of Bridport and the surrounding area.
Bridport carnival was celebrated in 1921 on Alexandra Day Saturday 11 June. Over £300 was raised for Bridport hospital from the varied activities on the day. The day started with the traditional flower sellers, selling flowers door-to-door and to the people waiting to watch the carnival processions at 2pm.
Blue skies and warm sunshine played an important part in the success of Alexandra Day… Flags fluttered in the breeze of an ideal June day- the shrill laughter of the youngsters echoes and re-echoed in the streets, while the enthusiasm of grown-ups was non the less remarkable.
Alexandra Rose Day commemorated the arrival of 18 year old Alexandra of Denmark to Britain to marry Prince Albert the eldest son of Queen Victoria in 1863. The day was first commemorated 50 years later to raise funds for the sick and needy. Queen Alexandra developed the idea that people with disabilities would make artificial wild roses to raise funds for London Hospitals.
From a spectacular point of view the carnival procession easily held the premier place in the day’s programme. The costumes and characters were many and varied and excited admiration and wonder from the huge crowd of spectators. Reading the Bridport News report, the main difference between the carnival today and then is the number of horses, both ridden and driven, including Miss Gladys Wadham as Joan of Arc riding a grey pony. The procession, which included cars and lorries, lasted 2 hours accompanied by the Artillery Band and was followed by a garden fete at Downe Hall.
After the procession the crowds descended on Downe Hall, home of Major W. A. Alexander. The various stalls and side shows where similar to those we would find today in the many fetes held in the area. The traditional display of folk dancing and competitions with a presentation of prizes by the mayor. These included a Wild Flower competition entered by 217 children won by G. Masters for the variety of flowers and L. Little for the arrangement of Flowers. The Bridport News notes that the majority of the prizes were generously returned by the winner to benefit the hospital.
Other entertainment would not be seen at fetes today include a display of boxing, which was popular with the crowds. The event carried on into the evening with dancing for the young people to music from the artillery band.
It was another of the many red letter days in the annals of the town, and the response on the part of the public to the appeal was spontaneous and generous. Depression in trade and the consequent lack of employment were factors that might have spelt failure to such a venture, but everyone – for the time being at all events – forgot the present troublous times and entered into the spirit of the day. Mindful of the splendid work undertaken by the Bridport Hospital for whose benefit the day was arranged, everyone seemed eager to give, and in this respect rich and poor vied with each other.
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References Quotes in Italics:
The Bridport News: 1921 June 17