On this Day 10th August 1892

Hayle: The New Venice

Hayle, according to the Cornishman, is “Alive with Gaiety”. Cornwall, the journalist implies, is giving Johnny Foreigner a run for his money. The number who will turn out to see a carnival here, matches any display of support that can be mustered in some distant, and doubtless insanitary, Italian city.

Hayle Regatta circa 1900, crowds surrounding Copper House Pool where competition appears to be in full swing. (courtesy of <a href=Hayle Regatta circa 1900, crowds surrounding Copper House Pool where competition appears to be in full swing. (courtesy of Hayle Archive)

And why would the people not turn out? “We have mirth and gay colours”, the writer continues. “We are amused by a motley throng of clowns and kings, cowboys and gondoliers, who march in procession in comical or gorgeous attire; and like to see the rockets and Roman candles and torchlights sending forth streams coloured fire and turning night into day”. Hayle Carnival is noted as a particularly fine example. The 1890 event was “capital”. The 1891 water carnival was “pretty”. And now here we are in 1892, with a regatta and swimming matches followed by a “first-class land carnival”.

This year’s event has been an even greater success. Big numbers are bandied about. “Thousands” of spectators “lined the streets from Foundry to Copperhouse”. Subscribers have contributed £100 towards the cost. There were 300 torches, and every vehicle carried its complement of fireworks. Costumes have been brought from London. George Sanger’s troupe have generously “helped to brighten the pageant by appearing in their stage costumes on their own conveyance”, any considerations as to publicity value no doubt wholly absent from their minds.

The parade started off from the fair field at 9.00, just as evening was falling. The procession was headed by “Mr Hannibal Tredinnick—robed in the gorgeous attire a bold Hussar”. There were two Buffalo Bills, along with several other prairie-inspired characters - one of whom, a “Red Injun from the wild and woolly west….had full war paint and leathers, a gleaming battle axe, tomahawk and bowie knife, and strode his steed with the grace of an Apache brave”. There was a Queen Victoria, and several other royals ancient and modern, including two Charles IIs. “Mrs Slower” (more usually known as Mr W. J. Launder ) “looked as if she were addicted taking gin in her tea and had forgotten put on her corset”. And Mr Launder was not the only cross-dresser: a Mr Arthur Poole, sporting “flaxen hair, bare arms, and white dress”, is described as “very fetching” despite “naughtily” stopping for an inappropriate cigarette or two while still in costume.

There were troupes of minstrels in blackface, and an organ-grinder with one Mr C Spurgeon Richards beside him, performing “antics…extremely good and highly amusing” in the guise of the monkey. A clown on stilts loomed so high above the crowd that, the journalist suggests, he might have made use of the telephone to make sure his wisecracks were heard. Also showing his skill was a Mr Smithett, costumed as a jester, and posing on a wagon where he was hoisted up on a “huge unicycle made ….fifty years ago…This huge wheel, with its complicated steering and balancing arrangements, has been ridden the road, the cyclist being scaled on a swaying saddle between the spokes”. All manner of official bodies, including St Ives Fire Brigade, took part in the show. And naturally a full range of local traders represented themselves in memorable ways, including a “barbarous looking” hairdresser and a butcher got up as Bluebeard.

Indeed, all human life was there. There was even a gondolier, reportedly missing his gondola and looking a little lost. But then - who needs Venice, when they have Hayle?


Cornishman 18th August 1892, page 6


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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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