Key moment in Hastings Carnival history revealed and archive photos uncovered

Our readers have done us proud and following our appeal for the earliest Hastings Carnival photograph, we have received one from what was possibly the very first year.

Thursday, 28th May 2020, 7:39 am

The fundraising event was started as Hastings & St Leonards Carnival for the Hospital and according to Hastings Borough Council, the earliest one on record is 1923, though it was not certain this was the first time the carnival took place.

Following an article in last week’s Hastings, St Leonards & Rye Observer, Roy Penfold kindly sent in a photograph from his collection which also dates back to 1923, which is excellent, and he also found a very interesting cutting from the Hastings & St Leonards Observer, dated June 1926, which gives some further clues.

Roy said: “I believe that the parades, or town carnival, originated as a fundraising parade for the hospital, originally the General Infirmary, which used to be situated opposite Hastings Pier, where the theatre now stands.

“I have not found any specific references earlier than 1923 to a Hastings Carnival but various mentions of these parades and other fundraising events sporadically throughout the period between 1839, when the first Infirmary was constructed, peaking again just before 1887, when the infirmary was rebuilt on the same site, then another series of fundraising events and parades that gave birth to the Royal East Sussex Hospital, construction of which started circa 1923.”

The cutting that Roy found tells us the definitive date when it was decided the carnival would be made an annual event.

Mr Norman Gray, entertainments manager, suggested a fancy dress procession to be held in August, when the town would be full of visitors, and this was agreed by the carnival committee at a meeting held at the Town Hall in June 1926.

The mayor, Alderman W.J. Fellows, presided over the meeting and once the proposition was approved, the officers and committees were elected, with the mayor as chairman and a representative of each society taking part co-opted to sit on the general committee.

Roy Penfold had this one Hastings Carnival photo dating back to 1923 in his collection

The new secretary, John King, thought prizes should be given for fancy dress, saying this would add a keen interest to the procession, but other members disagreed, saying all the money should go to the hospital.

Our exploration of the history of the carnival began with a message from Sandy Dawson, who had found a lovely 1930s photograph of her late husband Reg, when he was Page to the Carnival Queen.

She hoped this would prompt other readers to send in their own memories to the Observer.

Vanessa Wood-Mewett kindly sent in a photo from about 1935, showing a float with the theme the Completion of the Great Pyramids of Cheops.

The Completion of the Great Pyramids of Cheops, a Hastings Carnival float from 1935

She said: “My great uncle sent me this photo of a float that my grandad, Fred Honeysett, did the carpentry on for Fryers the builders.”

We would love to hear more memories of the carnival and see your photos from years gone by, email [email protected]

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Cutting from the Hastings & St Leonards Observer dated June 1926

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