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.
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.
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