Laindon Carnival

Gone but not forgotten

‘Carnival’ was traditionally a Catholic festive season that took place in the days leading up to Lent. Originally from the Italian word ‘carnevale’ which means ‘put away your meat’. The event spread to become world-wide and typically involved a parade and various activities celebrating life.

In the early part of the 20th century carnival parades became a way for local clubs and groups to promote their activities whilst collecting for good causes. In addition to adult activities such as drama, horticulture and sport, there were parades of youth activities such as Boy Scouts, Cubs and Boys Brigade. Local businesses were also quick to take advantage of the publicity that the parades could provide. In their simplest form, trade vehicles were decorated with bunting, banners and garlands of flowers but as time passed the decoration of vehicles (known as floats) became more elaborate and often included purpose built structures to make them resemble a theatrical set. Initially horse-drawn delivery vehicles were used but in time these gave way to vans, flatbed lorries and even motorcycles.

Collecting coins en-route became an important feature, raising funds for local charities and projects.

I give below some facts and information I have collected from the local paper archives along with a few photographs. Most events and meetings of the Carnival Committee were originally held in the Memorial Hall, High Road, Laindon but transferred in 1959, to the newly built Laindon Community Centre, in Aston Road.

I found brief references to Laindon Carnivals in 1925 and 1926.

In 1927 a Carnival was organized by the Laindon Philanthropic Society which included fancy dress and baby competitions.  Sports and a concert added to the enjoyment.  The Hon. Sec. was Mr W J Brett and Mrs W F Boss distributed the prizes.

The winning float in the 1929 Laindon Carnival belonged to Jimmy Richards who lived at the farmhouse ‘Sunnymead’ on the unmade part of King Edward Road. His float consisted of a motorbike decorated with a sign ‘Drink More Milk’, thus advertising the family’s milk delivery service. Attached to the motorbike was a sidecar containing a live calf!

1932. Carnival Queen: Edna Gibbons. Attendants: Misses. Whomes, Wright, Hull, Swann, Richards and Warwick. 1933.  Carnival Queen: Miss Renee Swann. Attendants: E. Willetts, Alice Hollington, L Muller, Doreen Woodhouse, N. Wright and C. Barr.

1933.  Carnival Queen: Miss Irene Swann (Renee).

1934.  Carnival Queen: Bella Whitehead of ‘Mahala’, Tavistock Road, a typist in a local builder’s yard. 1st Prize: Decorated horse-drawn trade: J. Cottis – Bakers. That year the carnival was raising funds towards furnishing the Nurses Cottage in the High Road which had been built in 1932.

1935.  Carnival Queen – Flora MacDonald of 3 Somerset Road, Laindon.

1936.   Carnival Queen: Marjorie Marchant of High Road, Laindon.  Attendants: Olive Barker, Lily Sampson, Mary Polden and Marjorie Hopper. The event took place on Bank Holiday Monday 1st June when a cine film was taken of the parade carefully negotiating one of Laindon’s bumpy, uneven roads.

1937.  Carnival Queen: Pearl Irene Gibb, of ‘Berily’, Victoria Road, Laindon.
1st Prize decorated trade vehicle: H. Simmonds – Corn Merchant.

To see the article ‘Laindon Carnival 1937’ (with a nautical theme) with full 30 page programme  Click here.

1938.  Carnival Queen: Elsie Sykes of High Road, Laindon. Attendants: I. White, A Sykes and R Linkman. 20,000 people travelled by rail during the weekend – the greatest number on a Bank Holiday. 1st Prize for decorated trade vehicle: W. H. Gibbons. 1st Prize for undecorated trade vehicle – Gas Light and Coke Company. 1st Prize for Professional advertising – Spratts Ltd. 1st Prize for decorated private car – Radion (Laindon) Ltd. Decorated cycle or motorcycle: L. Ewing.

The cinema entered a decorated private car, possibly to promote the change of name from Laindon Picture Theatre to the Radion. (The exact date of the change has not yet been established.)

Competition winners:  Ankle – Mrs Silver.  Tiny tots fancy dress – Mary Pratt.  Boys (5-9) fancy dress 1st – A Earle.  2nd. M Mansfield.  Girls (5-9).  Ist – Beckwith. 2nd – J. Ellerby, 3rd – I Oliff. 4th –  J Buckenham.  Girls (10-14) 1st – P Thomas. 2nd – P Plenty. 3rd – I Fowler.  Gentleman’s fancy dress:  1st – W Tyler.  Juvenile couples up to 14 years: 1st – I Finch and C Jarman.  Children’s beauty: 1st – D Smith.  2nd – J Mansell.  3rd – P Pelman. 4th – D Mansfield. 5th – S Emson.  6th – E Hancock.

Comic dog show:  Longest tail – Mrs Hewitt.  Shortest tail – Miss J Buckenham.  Ugliest – Mr Miles.  Most mournful eyes – Mrs Clark.  Most hansom – Miss Norman.  Consolation prizes:  Mrs Carfield, and the Misses P and J Buckenham.

1939.  Carnival Queen: Joan Bowyer.  Chairman:  Mr W Kiddell.  Organiser:  Mr R. Moorcroft.  Secretary: Mr E. Howe.

Tilbury Boys’ Band and Southend British Legion Band played.  Some of the winners were:  Best decorated cycle: Freda Griggs.  Best decorated trade cycle:  E. Godden.  Best decorated horse vehicle:  W. T. Townsend.  Best led horse: M. Koppit.  Tiny tots parade: 1. Olive Sawyer. 2. Joan Frost. 3. Robin Burford.  4. Betty Pearman.  5. June Firman.

Later that year, Carnival Queen Joan Bowyer and her Court attended the Dunton Fete where £20 was raised towards the repairs to the church roof.

1940.  Carnival Queen:  Miss Clara Findlay aged 16 of Vowler Road was chosen as Carnival Queen on Saturday 4th May.  Her Maid of Honour:  Miss Daisy Richardson.  The retiring Queen, Miss Joan Bowyer, performed the crowning ceremony at the Memorial Hall on Wednesday 8th May.

I can only remember going to one carnival myself which I believe was in 1951.  All I can recall is a float with a magician sawing a lady in half.  The unfortunate lady was being played by a young woman called ‘Lydie’ (short for Lydia) who worked in ‘Manor Dairy’. (See the 15th photo in the article ‘Sloper’s Dairy of Laindon’ by Peter Sloper).

Lydie was also a member of ‘Laindon Revellers’ and demonstrated her acting skills by screaming loudly as the magician appeared to be going to work with his saw.  No wonder I remember that particular float so clearly.  I can also remember a few years later, seeing Lydie appear at the Memorial Hall in the pantomime Aladdin, when she played the part of a spoof TV Newsreader.  Sitting in a cardboard TV set, she kept giving out comical news reports.  Jean Pattle played the principal boy.

After the carnival, we went to the field behind the Laindon Hotel where I was entered into a toddlers’ race.  I was in the lead until I saw my mum and sister standing at the side and heard them shouting something to me.  I stopped and ran over to them to see what they wanted, while the other children ran passed me to the finishing line.  I was told ‘you would have won that if you hadn’t stopped’.  I was very young and obviously had a lot to learn.

1951.  Carnival Queen:  Miss Flora Houser.  Attendants:  Dorothy Banks and Betty Crowe. This was the first Carnival post-war and the main event of Laindon’s ‘Festival of Britain’ celebrations in May.

The Whitson Bank Holiday weather was disappointingly bleak when the floats assembled in Samuel Road  where the event was ‘opened’ and sent on its way by the wife of Mr Bernard Braine MP.  Mrs Braine cut a ribbon that had been stretched across the road and said into a microphone:   “It is not easy to run a Carnival and it takes courage to be gay in the face of difficulties.  That is one thing the British have never lacked, they have always had courage.  This afternoon let us forget politics, the cost of living and the worries of feeding the families.  Let us set out to enjoy ourselves.”

The half mile long procession set off on its 4½ mile route in the bitter cold led by the impressive figure of Mr G T Saunders riding a white horse and dressed as John Bull.  Despite the cold wind and overcast sky, many people lined the route.  Over 10,000 people attended on the day, many of whom had travelled to Laindon to watch the procession and afterwards flocked to the fete in Mr Toomey’s field in Aston Road where many  sideshows and stalls had been set up.  A favourite attraction proved to be an Essex County Road Safety Exhibition in a converted double-decker bus.  The evening finished with a dance in the Memorial Hall with Wally Card as MC.  Music was provided by The Billy Dee’s dance band.

Around this time the Carnival began promoting the Community Association’s campaign to raise funds to build a Community Hall in Aston Road.

1952.  Carnival Queen:  Brenda Buckenham.  The crowning ceremony took place on the stage in The Radion cinema.

1953.  I recently read an old press cutting from a local paper, reporting the lack of local girls willing to enter the Carnival Queen Competition leading up to Coronation Year.  I must admit one part made me laugh out loud and another part made me quite cross.  Headed “Only five girls wanted to be Laindon Carnival Queen” I quote as follows:-

“Laindon’s young women are shy and apparently do not want the honour of being Laindon’s Coronation Year Carnival Queen. 

Two weeks ago when the Carnival Committee held a dance to select six finalists, the attendance was so poor that only two were selected.  On Saturday, at Langdon Hills Cricket Club’s dance at the Crown Hotel, at which it was hoped to select a further six finalists, only five girls would enter the competition and only three were chosen finalists.

Two of the three entered last year’s Carnival Queen Competition and one of them was a Maid of Honour to 1952 Queen, Brenda Buckenham.

The three are Miss Joan Hutton of Casablanca, Tavistock Road (last year’s Maid of Honour), Miss Joan Cobb, (an unsuccessful entrant from last year) and Miss Doris Marner of Old Post Office, High Road, Langdon Hills.

Said an official of the Carnival Committee after the dance: ‘It is, to say the least, most disappointing’.  It is hoped to select six more finalists at a dance this Saturday at the Essex Country Club.

There was a sixth entrant for the competition – the Langdon Hills, Cricket Club Treasurer, in a borrowed dress and wearing make-up filched from his wife’s handbag!  He was judged ineligible and disqualified.

Judges of the competition were Mr and Mrs Siddall, licensees of the Crown Hotel and Mr R Davis”.

I can’t help thinking that when a further 6 finalists were needed and only five turned up, how unkind it was to only choose three of them!  I hate to imagine how rejected the other two girls must have felt.  And, although the ‘in drag’ entrant was very comical, it was almost adding insult to injury in respect of the girls who had entered but hadn’t been selected to compete.

Quickly moving on.

I believe the last carnival in Laindon took place in 1957.  The parade then transferred to Basildon.

1958. Carnival Queen:  Joan Bartle.

1959.  Carnival Queen: June Ferguson.  Attendants: Dorothy Matthews and Ann Bartle (sister of the previous year’s Queen).  See separate article called “Carnival Queen 1959”.

The Carnival still takes place, although the route and the rules have changed over the years.  Health and Safety regulations now stipulate that each float must have four out-runners, everybody on the float must be seated and there must be an insurance policy in place.

Laindon Carnival thought to be 1932.
Jimmy Richards' winning "Drink More Milk" motorbike and sidecar. 1929.
Carnival Queen Edna Gibbons and her Court 1932.
Carnival Queen Edna Gibbons and her Court 1932.
Laindon Carnival 1934. 1st prize, Best horse-drawn trade - J Cottis - Baker.
Laindon Carnival 1937, corner of Essex Road.
Laindon Carnival corner of Essex Road, 1937.
Laindon Carnival 1938, corner of Essex Road.
Laindon Carnival Queen Joan Bartle and Court 1958.
Tilbury Boys' Brigade 1937?
Laindon Carnival passing 'Rosemary', Dr Shannon's house, in High Road, Langdon Hills.
Laindon Carnival early fifties.
St John's float, thought to have taken part in the 1957 Laindon Carnival.
Robbialac Paints trade vehicle in the High Road close to its junction with Essex Road. 1937/8
Taken from Samuel Road looking across the High Road to Nightingale Parade.
Laindon Recorder 1951
Elsie Sykes and her court 1938
Joan Bartle 1958 Carnival Queen.
Basildon Standard
Berry Boys Carnival Float 1951.
Ken Porter
Joan Bowyer - photo taken about a year after she was the 1939 Carnival Queen. She was 17 and had joined the army.
Janet Penston

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  • Re- Laindon Carnival: My sister, Linda Oram(née Burton) I remember her friend, Christine Harvey, I’m sure was Carnival Queen back in 1950’s(?) – I had a crush on her. I was 5.

    By John E Burton (24/08/2018)
  • These pics are so interesting to me, all of them. This is because we moved to Laindon in late August 1957, thus missing the carnival that year and never attending any in Basildon from 1958 onwards. Where I live now, Maldon, Essex the carnival is an absolute attraction to the whole town, the fair on the promenade going on for nearly one week. I particularly like the photograph of Joan Bartle from the 1958 Basildon Carnival, she was absolutely stunning.

    By Richard Haines (30/03/2017)
  • I have added a photograph of the 1951 Berry Boys Carnival Float.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (29/03/2017)
  • Apologies, Brian Baylis, for getting Marlene muddled with Carol Bailey.  The last I knew of Marlene was when she lived next to Rose and George White off the High Road, Laindon.  (Was that Compton Walk?)  Best wishes to you both. 

    By Georgina Nottage (nee Ellingford) (26/10/2015)
  • Donald Joy, my sister is named Marlene and now lives in North Wales. We lived in Tyler Avenue, then Compton Walk, until moving to Norfolk, but Marlene moved to the Hadleigh area for a while.

    By Brian Baylis (25/10/2015)
  • Georgina Nottage’s question to Brian Baylis, 20/06/2012, did he have a sister Carol who lived at the top of Pound Lane. I think you are probably referring to Carol Bailey who lived at No. 4 Airey Houses, my next door neighbour. 

    By Donald Joy (01/09/2015)
  • It was nice to read Donald Joy’s memory of spending his sixpence at “George’s”, especially as everyone seemed to remember the sweet shop outside Markhams Chase school but not my mum and dad’s. 

    By Georgina Nottage (nee Ellingford) (26/08/2015)
  • My Grandparents lived in Leinster Road and if I’d been a good boy I might get 6d to spend on sweets  (didn’t happen often) at George’s. That’s what we knew St Nicholas Store as!   4 Black Jacks or 4 Fruit Salads for just 1d!   For 3d you could be the proud owner of a huge Wagon Wheel (yes they were bigger then – much bigger).   And who could forget Spangles in a variety of flavours?   Plus they were double-wrapped, to keep the dirt out and the flavour in!   6d could go such a long way back then and it did, all the way to George’s.  The good old days and then I think to myself that youngsters now, in the future will look back as we do and now will be their good old days.   No comparison!  Timing is everything. 

    By Donald Joy (23/08/2015)
  • Hi Brian Baylis.  St. Nicholas Stores did exist, until the early sixties when it was taken over by the Basildon Development Corporation.  There were four properties between Leinster and Cambridge Road.  Mr & Mrs Butcher lived in “Yarmouth”, George and Helen Ellingford at St Nicholas Stores, Mr & Mrs Gibson who ran a decorating business and the fourth name evades me.

    Brian do you have a sister named Carol?  And did you live at the top of Pound Lane? 

    Editor:  The 1955 Electoral Register for this area shows:-  ‘Yarbridge’ – Mr & Mrs Butcher.  No. 53 -  Mr & Mrs Ellingford.  No. 55 – Mr & Mrs Gipson.  No. 57 – Mr & Mrs Robinson. 

    By Georgina Nottage (nee Ellingford) (20/06/2015)
  • I have been remembering St. Nicholas Store for some time and seriously thought I imagined it.

    By Brian Baylis (27/05/2015)
  • Does anyone remember belonging to Nicholas Youth Centre in the 60’s? We put on a float for the carnival something to do with a jail.  Ralph Hayden was part of it and the centre was run by Bill Davies and Kay Hulbert both now sadly passed away.  Those were the good old days.  We also has Fleetwood Mac on the stage at one event.

    By Joan Goodfellow nee Merchant (30/12/2014)
  • Sometimes one reads items in the archives which causes them to search their memories.  One such item was that of Georgine Nottage, 10/09/13, in which she refers to the forecourt of St.Nicholas stores.  Try as I might I cannot remember any such stores in the vicinity, unless there was a newly constructed shop on the Kathleen Ferrier estate  of which I do not have too great a knowledge and I do not exactly remember when this estate was started.  Can anyone give the location of this shop?

    By W.H.Diment (02/12/2013)
  • The question of the St Nicholas store came up some time ago (in Nina’s retracing of her journey to Markhams Chase School). The store was somewhere between Leinster & Cambridge Road, roughly where the new high school was built. Georgina Ellingford’s family owned the store.

    Editor:  The high school to which Eric refers is now called James Hornsby School.

    By Eric Pasco (02/12/2013)
  • In the 1950’s carnival picture which I also have a copy of somewhere in my archives, is my lovely sister Marlene with the ice-cream tray held by ribbons, and I recognise Eric Cowell as the pirate.

    By Brian Baylis (27/11/2013)
  • I have added two more photos to this article. Bella Whitehead 1934 and Elsie Sykes 1938.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (09/10/2013)
  • Does anyone remember helping to decorate the float of the St Nicholas Church Girl Guide troupe on the forecourt of St Nicholas Stores’ round about 1957/8? My dad was a dab hand with crepe paper (having won several shop window dressing competitions) and if truth be known rather took over the decorating. I vaguely remember the troupe winning a rosette.

    By Georgina Nottage (nee Ellingford) (06/09/2013)
  • It is my impression that the views expressed by Richard Haines and myself differ in degree not in principal. Richard states that “there were still 16,000 people on the waiting list for houses in West Ham alone.” Without access to his figures I stated that “housing was hard to find and sub standard for many.” It is certainly true that many items remained rationed after the war but the question needs to be posed item by item. Petrol, banned completely for personal motorists during the war, was soon available albeit in limited amounts for several years. Following almost continual rain in 1946/47 and the consequent ruin of many crops, bread and potatoes were rationed for a period. The London tea auctions resumed in the summer of 1952 and the government got out of the tea business. It made little difference as the amount of tea allowed under ration had been increased to the extent that ending the ration meant no real increase in the volume of tea consumed. Clothing was completely free from rationing in the late 1940s and I distinctly remember, in 1950/51, going into a Fifty Shilling Tailor in the city and ordering a nice blue striped suit for only two pounds ten. Made to measure no less! Richard states that “it would take at least another five to ten years before any real return to good living standards was felt.” What good living standards? The pre-war standard of living for the great majority of people was abysmal. No National Health, high unemployment, a very limited social safety net, same sub standard and scarce housing. At least the immediate post war years saw the introduction of National Health (even inclusive of dental care and wigs of all things), the beginning of large scale new housing developments (the King Edward estate), an improved safety net (child allowance, old age pensions, and improved unemployment). In 1951, the year of Mrs. Braine’s comments, we were only six years away from McMillan’s “you never had it so good”.

    By Alan Davies (01/07/2013)
  • Many thanks Nina, for these carnival scenes and quotations, you have researched very well Miss Marple. However I am surprised at Alan Davies’s comment about Mrs Braine’s views on politics, the cost of living and the problems of feeding families in 1951. It is a well known fact that rationing was still carrying on at that time, politics was still unsettled and even in 1952 there were still 16,000 people on the waiting list for houses in West Ham alone. After six austerity years the tide was only gradually turning for our war torn country. It would take at least another five to ten years before any real return to good living standards was felt. The words of Mrs Braine were therefore carefully chosen and must have been received well in the fashion that they were intended. The fifties were indeed fascinating times.

    By Richard Haines (30/06/2013)
  • I have added a paragraph and photograph (paper cutting) to this article as I now have details of the 1951 Carnival.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (29/06/2013)
  • Mrs. Braine’s comments are surely a little over the top when she says ” This afternoon let us forget politics, the cost of living and the problem of feeding our families. Let us set out to enjoy ourselves.” The time was 1951 not 1941! After five years of a Labour government and its social programmes, six years of peace, low unemployment, and limited inflation no one went hungry. Yes, housing remained hard to find and sub standard for many but there was no such thing as “the problem of feeding our families.” True the Sunday joint had to stretch for three days but there was always sausages and, of course, fish on Friday. Vegetables? Mainly a steady diet of potatoes and cabbage. Very healthy. Boring? Perhaps, but there was no worry about feeding the family.

    By Alan Davies (29/06/2013)
  • The name Joan Hutton rings a bell and brings forth a memory from the distant land of youth. Joan was two or three years older than I —- quite a gulf at that tender age. I only knew her by sight. Joan was a leading light in the Langdon Players and was part of the phalanx of extroverted and glamorous young things who made up that set. 

    I have a memory of a warm and sunlit summer morning and of people waiting on Laindon station for the twelve minutes past eight to Fenchurch Street. Coats and wraps abandoned for the gorgeous weather, dressed in colourful summer dresses Joan, as the alpha female, and a couple of friends were surrounded by several male admirers. The laughing and bonhomie from the group epitomised their youth, vitality, health, and overall joie de vivre. 

    The alpha male appeared to be a Phil somebody or other, also of the Langdon Players, who lived over the crown and owned a pre war sports car. Upon alighting at Fenchurch Street the group would set out in separate directions. The girls would join myriad other young girls from all over the city as they flocked to their individual offices, heels tapping and floral dresses gently wafting in the wind. What a wonderful sight of youth and glamour. At least to a male’s eyes. Ah youth, where hast thou flown?

    By Alan Davies (12/04/2013)

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