Every Picture Tells a Story

Oakham Carnival

It’s always interesting to research the social history behind some of the images that we have in the museum’s collection of old photographs and postcards. These are often donated to us with little background information. However, a previous owner of this image did give us a head start when they pencilled on the back, “Oakham Carnival, Market Place. Messrs Glazier”. Unfortunately, there was no date given and this (and other questions) provided an opportunity for some further research.

From the late 19th century various public events in Oakham used the name carnival, the Cricket Carnival, Sports Carnival, Carnival Ball and children’s Fancy Dress Carnival. The former two events usually took place on the Lime Kilns, opposite the junction of Penn Street and Brooke Road. The latter two events were held at the Victoria Hall. These events mainly took place during Oakham Feast celebrations, held around the 9th September and date back centuries. We know that in 1600 Elizabeth I granted three fairs to John Harrington, lord of Oakham manor, one of which was held on September 9th.

During WW1 the Feast was suspended and post war celebrations were increasingly lacklustre. June 1929 saw the introduction of an additional event with the inception of the Carnival Rag with themed entertainment, parades and competitions. It was decided by the organizers that the event should provide a means of fundraising for the Leicester Royal Infirmary, a hospital which provided medical care to many Rutland residents.

The theme for the first carnival was “the visit of King Tootandcumin”. The event commenced at the railway station with the arrival of the King and his court by train (from Manton). A parade of floats, led by  the British Legion marching band escorted Tootandcumin to Oakham Castle where, in time honoured tradition, he presented a horseshoe, recycled from one that had formerly hung above the gates of Messrs Morris’ brewery in Cross Street. Entertainment continued with comedy sketches performed on a stage near the Buttercross and concluded with a ball for 575 at the Victoria Hall. The event raised over £175 and was considered a great success.

In subsequent years the themes revolved around comical characters such as Big Chief Spotabottle from the Can’t Can’t Islands; the Mayor of Hamoak; “Tite-Ass-Oates” and Judge Clinkem-all. All raised substantial sums for the Leicester Royal Infirmary but from 1937 at least 25% of the money raised was donated to Rutland’s own Memorial Hospital. Sadly the event was cancelled during the period 1940-44 but in 1945 it returned with,“ The launching of a dreadnought…HMS Gurcha”, commanded by Admiral O No-Yer-Don’t.

There is evidence that the Oakham Carnival continued into the 1960’s when the Carnival allied itself to the “Hands Off Rutland” campaign to save Rutland’s independence. Floats included a mock battleship named HMS Rutland, which later “sailed” to Leicester to highlight Rutland’s cause at the Boundary Commission’s conference in the city.

Returning to the issue of dating the photograph it soon became obvious that there were few visual clues. The shop, FW Glaziers, operated on this site until 1938, giving a date range 1929-38.  We cannot identify the people or characters in the image and the only other indicator is the style of the ladies cloche hats. These were fashionable throughout the 1920’s and 30’s but by the early 1930’s they had evolved into asymmetrical versions with small or no brim. In rural areas however, ladies seemed to be a little behind haute couture. 1929-38 was therefore as accurate as we could get.

However, whilst checking copyright issues concerning the postcard an online blog containing some useful information on how to date postcards was found. Specific reference was made to those printed on paper manufactured by Thomas Illingworth & Co and their use of symbols to denote the year of manufacture. As ours bore the symbol for 1931 this carnival must have taken place during, or after, that year.

Reverse of postcard
See the symbol between Post and Card

If you have any information that would add to our knowledge of the event captured in this image we would love to hear from you.

If you should wish to read the blog quoted please follow this lnk: https://aarkangel.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/lost-postcard-no-5/

By Jayne Williams