The Showpeople of Hampshire is a Heritage Lottery Funded project to capture, record and celebrate the hidden heritage of the county’s fairground families and to create a better understanding of this tight-knit community, their way of life and their contribution to the economy and life of Hampshire.
The project team worked with members of the showpeople community, volunteers from the wider population and local schools to gather a picture of showpeople’s culture and history. The materials collected will be preserved and made available for all to discover and enjoy at Hampshire Record Office.
The archive includes over 1,900 fairground photographs collected by fairground enthusiast, Ken Wise, during the course of his lifetime and donated to the Record Office by Steve Bailey, himself a descendent of the Bartlett fairground family of Blissford and Fordingbridge.
The archive also includes 33 oral history recordings made with members of showpeople families in Hampshire during the project. These recount stories of life on the fairground, winters spent on permanent yards, school and family life, and the daily struggle against the elements. They have been transcribed and will be preserved by Wessex Film and Sound Archive at Hampshire Record Office.
Research in libraries and archives across the county has unearthed fascinating insights into the early history of fairs and the lives of showpeople in Hampshire, including the county’s charter fairs, the development of showmen’s yards, the role of showpeople during the First and Second World Wars, and the origins and significance of the Showmen’s Guild.
Work with two Hampshire schools enabled children from showpeople families to share aspects of their way of life on the fairground with their classmates.
The project has created an educational DVD, a book and an exhibition exploring and celebrating the history and culture of the showpeople of Hampshire.
Copies of the book are available to read in Hampshire libraries and Hampshire Archives and Local Studies