A Brief History
According to George Friend Moretonians have always been known to join in any celebration. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Moretonhampstead was inundated with small booths which contained peep-shows, Wrestling matches, Dancing Bears, Hand Organs, Girls with tambourines and performing monkeys which could all be seen for 3d. At the first indication of any coronations, jubilees, peace treaties or any sort of public celebration arrangements were put into place and choirs accompanied by many instruments were rejoicing even at 2.00 o’clock in the morning. Church bells were rung and collections were made to give the poor a hogshead of cider (54 gallons) to assist then to join in.
Possibly the most spectacular of all these celebrations was the great but short lived victory over Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814 when a long procession including the local dignitaries, many bands crafts and trades with lavishly decorated symbols, also included was a cart containing four sheep shearers shearing sheep. Houses were decorated, arches constructed of laurel and illuminated in celebration.
After the procession the whole town (population 1936) sat down to a grand dinner on Greenhill with four 200ft long tables with a hogshead of cider at each corner and accompanied by music.
This must have been the forerunner of of the Carnival which was held annually in the winter up until 1920 and lasted for one day only. In 1921 it was changed to the Fourth Thursday in August and it’s proceeds benefited the Cottage Hospital, RD & E Hospital Princess Elizabeth Orthopedic Hospital and the Eye Infirmary. Over the years so many events took place to support the Carnival that it became a week long event and now events take place throughout August. The principle beneficiary is still the cottage hospital and other local charities and clubs and this is all due to the generosity of Moretonians and visitors who contribute to the best of their ability.
Taken with permission from George Friends book “Memories of Moreton”