The ‘Festival of Britain’ was organised by the Government to give Britain a feeling of recovery and progress after the ‘Period of Austerity’ 1945 to 1951. Rationing was still in place and much of London was still in ruins and redevelopment was badly needed. Many exhibitions were set up and Battersea Park was transformed into the ‘Festival Pleasure Gardens’.
Children from Markhams Chase Primary School were taken on a boat trip along the Thames. See third photograph in the article “My Early Years in Laindon” by Joyce Butt née Tyler which shows the ‘Skylon’ in the background.
The specially built Festival Hall on the South Bank was opened on 3rd May by King George V1. The opening day ended with many bonfires being lit across the Country.
Early in February Councillor H.E.Tanswell announced that Laindon’s ‘Festival of Britain’ celebrations would take place during the fortnight 14th to 27th May and he hoped to form a committee to create a complete programme with the main event being the Carnival. By 21st February this was proving a little difficult as people appeared to be reluctant to volunteer, possibly because the Council would not be providing any funding. Although four meetings had taken place where various suggestions had been made, different people had attended each time, making it difficult to form a committee. However, it was anticipated that £500 could easily be raised in Laindon and Langdon Hills and this in addition to the proceeds from the sale of programmes would cover the cost of the expenses.
Eventually a committee was formed and Mr G T Fuller of Paul’s Road was elected as Secretary. Several events were put in place including a sports day, concerts and plays, handicraft displays, a children’s service and a baby show. A thirty one page programme went on sale at the price of 2/6d, listing in detail the events for the fortnight. These went ahead as planned and were enjoyed by many despite the awfully disappointing weather which included the very late arrival of spring, snow at the end of March and very heavy rain which continued throughout the year.
The Festival opened on Thursday 3rd May when Mr Tanswell lit the ‘Festival Bonfire’ on waste ground in Durham Road. A large crowd joined in a community sing-song led and conducted by Malcolm Roberts with the assistance of a microphone and Mrs R Fuller playing an organ placed on the back of a parked lorry.
On 7th May Flora Houser was chosen and crowned Carnival Queen on the stage of the Radion Cinema. Dorothy Banks and Betty Crowe were chosen to be her attendants.
On a bleak Whit Monday, despite the bitter weather, 10,000 people turned out to watch the half mile carnival procession which started from Samuel Road and after completing a 4½ mile route through Laindon, eventually came to a halt in the field behind Laindon Hotel.
Sports day took place on Saturday 19th May on the playing field of Laindon High Road School.
Margaret Harnwell of Leicester Road and Margaret Whitehead of King Edward Road, both aged 15, have always been friendly rivals in sport. They went to school together, joined the youth club together and always trained in athletics together. They were together again on Saturday when both won medals for jumping in “the Laindon Festival Sports” at the High Road School. Margaret Harnwell (left) was first in the long jump while Margaret Whitehead was first in the high jump. They are seen receiving their awards from the Festival Queen, Miss Flora Houser.
The baby competition took place the following Saturday, 26th May, also at Laindon High Road School. There were 77 entrants and the winners were. Age up to 12 months: Daphne Churms of Buller Road. One to two years: Jennifer Clark of Kings Road. Two to three years: Patricia Reed of Highfield Grove. Special prize for twins: Gillian and Steven Shroder of Manor Cottage, Manor Road.
The following article appeared in the June edition of The Laindon Recorder:-
‘He’s made a film of Laindon’s Festival’.
‘Nineteen year old Jim Larkin of Lord Burleigh Drive, Laindon, is keen on photography and one of his hobbies is taking cine films.
Armed with his camera, he has attended all the main functions of Laindon’s fortnight of ‘Festival of Britain’ celebrations and has made a film of the activities. The film, when developed and edited, will show scenes of the Carnival, the children’s service, the sports and the baby show. It will run for about 20 minutes. Jim has agreed to show the film to any interested organisations in the district’.
Also in June, a problem became evident; the Festival Committee were in deficit. At a meeting in St Peter’s Hall it had been hoped to discuss how to spend the money raised during ‘Festival fortnight’ but instead, a £150 shortfall was announced. It was thought to be due to the event taking place a little too early in the year, the poor weather conditions and although all events were well attended, the sale of programmes had been lower than anticipated.
In August, Laindon’s Carnival Queen and her Court took part in the Pitsea and Vange Festival Carnival. But once again heavy rain continued throughout the event which took place under many umbrellas. The Pitsea Carnival Queen’s beautiful 40 feet long boat-shaped carriage decorated with a mass of flowers was useless and she and her court had to travel the route in closed cars.
Several fund raising events followed which helped a great deal and reduced the deficit to £70. However as further bills came in, it rose again. In December it was announced that Mr Tanswell and Mr Fuller had provided £100 from their own pocket to cover the shortfall which they hoped to recoup by planning some future events.
It would appear that although many people thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations, few were willing or able to pay 2/6d for a souvenir programme leaving a large number unsold. An indication that life in 1951 was still hard for many families, particularly those with several children and only one income, if that. A situation which continued for many throughout the fifties.
Mr and Mrs H E Tanswell, of 8 King Edward Terrace, were remembered by one Laindon resident for the work they put into Laindon’s Festival of Britain activities. Mrs Burgess who is in her 72nd year, has presented a hand-worked embroidery, which she did herself, to Mr and Mrs Tanswell. Mrs Burgess is seen here with her “masterpiece”.
News snippets from The Laindon Recorder 1951:
1. In January Laindon’s Firemen were issued new helmets with badges on the front. They were called out four times within 48 hours, a chimney fire at ‘Inglenook’ Church Avenue, a small hearth fire in Oak Road, Crays Hill, a chimney fire at ‘Gladwyn’ St Nicholas Lane and a false alarm in King Edward Road. The verdict on the new helmets: “Light and comfortable and a decided improvement on the old tin helmets”.
2. February: Members of the Fur and Feather Society were given an interesting demonstration on the “correct way to kill a chicken”.
3. February 14th: After heavy rain last Friday, the High Road was flooded due to a blocked drain at the junction of Worthing Road. A wooden stage was erected over the pavement at Regent Metal Works to help pedestrians and further along, assistants helped shoppers to cross the road. The President of the Laindon and District Chamber of Commerce described it as ‘Disgusting’.
4. In April, Dunton’s Fur and Feather Society experienced one of their worst shows ever. Entries fell by 100, a third on those last year. The Chairman remarked: “We feel it was a washout, not due to lack of enthusiasm of the members, it’s the bad weather”.
5. Laindon man given 2 month prison sentence for receiving 90 ladies vests for £10. He explained he was a little short of cash at the time and had hoped to make a few shillings on them. (Can’t help thinking this sentence was rather harsh compared with some of the lenient ones given out today!)
6. July: For sale. Timber bungalow, 2 bedrooms, living-room, kitchenette and conservatory. Gas and electricity connected, water available. Ten minutes from Laindon Station. Price £770 or near offer.
7. August: Langdon Hills residents completed the construction of a mile long foot path from Berry Lane to Recreation Avenue. It had taken two years and cost them £160. Meanwhile in Laindon the ‘Durham Road Footpath Committee’ had been formed and 17 members had a meeting in a garden in Dunton Drive.
8. August 15th. Headline: ‘A bee’s sting broke his arm!’ ‘A man from Highlands Gardens in Langdon Hills, drove his pony and trolley along Basildon Road, Laindon when it was stung by a wasp. In a frenzy of pain the pony reared up, broke away from the shafts and galloped off. The trolley swerved towards a ditch at the road-side and the man aged 62, jumped clear of the runaway cart, but in doing so, fell and fractured his arm’. (Did you spot the mistake in this report?)
9. In September the Orsett Show went ahead but only a couple of photos were taken before the heavy rain started yet again.
10. In November, Mr H W Dixon, the Manager of the Radion Cinema announced that a £7,000 face lift would take place in December. The Cinema would close for two weeks while the work was being carried out and would re-open on Christmas Eve. All seats would be replaced and new carpets fitted. A new screen installed and the stage made bigger. Gas lamps would be replaced with electrical wall lights. The box office would be rebuilt and an entirely new canopy built on the cinema and a new and attractive system of neon lighting will illuminate the building’s exterior. Ticket prices for the new seats would be set at 2s 7d and it was hoped to start a children’s club in the near future.
11. December: A Laindon man from Durham Road was arrested for begging in a street. He claimed to be singing but a Policeman said “there was an incoherent howling noise coming from the back on his throat”. When threatened with arrest he pleaded “Oh please don’t do that, think of the missus”. He had collected £2 15s 7d worth of coins in his hat. Before fining him 10 shillings, the Magistrate commented: “He was making more money than if he had been singing in a club”.
12: December: A review of this year’s pantomime was headlined: “Sleeping Beauty went Gay”.
A few observations from the local paper in 1951.
Were the many advertisements for vitamin pills to keep the flu away and little liver pills to ‘wake up your bile’ in the mornings an indication of the state of Laindon’s health at the time?
The name of any female mentioned in the paper was often pre-fixed with the word ‘pretty’ or ‘attractive’. Although very flattering, these days would probably be considered un-PC.
People aged 60 and over were often referred to as ‘Old Folk’.