Heritage100

Holidays at Home Fair and Lord George Sanger's Circus

Fun fair at Hoglands Park, Southampton

The fairgrounds had to be blacked out so they would not be seen from the air.

In 1942, the government urged people to take their holidays at home and requested the re-opening of fairs in order to boost morale. As a result of this announcement, Southampton City Council wrote to businesses across the city inviting them to a meeting to put the government’s wishes into action.

The result was a summer of fairs that year. In Southampton, Reuben Gillham opened his fair on the Common and did so for the remainder of the war. Gillham was joined by other showmen including Arnold Brothers, and fairs were run on the Common and at Hoglands Park, and continued despite the use of large areas of the Common for American troops in the build up to D-Day.

This particular photograph shows R. Gillham's Holidays at Home Fair and Lord George Sanger's Circus, at Hoglands Park, Southampton in 1945.

The fairgrounds had to be blacked out so they would not be seen from the air. Tilts were used to cover rides and stalls, with a limited amount of light, just enough to see by.

The photograph is from a collection of images of show engines, fairground rides, living wagons, sidestuff, organs and some circuses, at locations mainly in London and across the south of England, including the Marlands and the Common, Southampton, Portsmouth, Lymington and Andover.

Quick Facts

  • Catalogue Record Number 51A11/5/76
  • Venue Hoglands Park, Southampton
  • Photograph taken 1945
  • Medium Black and white photograph
  • Subject Reuben Gilham's Holidays at Home and Lord George Sanger's Circus

Facts

  • During World War II, an important role taken on by the Showmen’s Guild and the country’s showmen was to run fairs for the benefit of the war effort. An advertisement for Arnold’s fair, held on Southampton Common in 1945, includes a reference to the contribution which the fair would make to the war effort: ‘TO-NIGHT, August 16, is the BENEFIT NIGHT for the British and American Red Cross. TOMORROW (Friday) for the St John’s Ambulance. We rely on you to do your best for these good causes.’
  • A Spitfire was purchased with money collected at fairs by members of the Showmen’s Guild. The money came from individual members, regional sections and organisations associated with the showpeople community. The target figure of £5,000 was realised during the annual meeting of members.

    The aeroplane was built in 1941 and delivered to Northolt Airfield. It was named ‘All the Fun of the Fair’ and flown by the Polish pilots of 306 Squadron RAF, part of No1 Polish Wing. It was used for training, defending London, and making fighter sweeps over the Channel. On 11th September 1941 it was damaged in a collision. The pilot managed to land, but the pilot of the other aircraft was killed. The aeroplane was repaired and returned to front-line duty on 6th October with 303 Squadron, a sister squadron of 306. In June 1942 a flying accident ended its short combat life. Although it was repaired and subsequently used in training, it did not see combat again, and was finally scrapped in October 1953.

Did you know?

In 2008 the Showmen’s Guild dedicated a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield in Staffordshire. It is in the form of a carousel horse and commemorates the military service of the Guild’s members, in particular those who gave their lives. It was funded by contributions from every member.

Gallery

Fun fair at Southampton

Fact Sheets

Things to Do

  • A book and DVD on Hampshire Showpeople will be available free from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies in Winchester.

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