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My memories of Caterham Carnival, by Peter Wood, in 1998

In 1958 I was the Social Secretary of The Parochial Church Council of St. John’s,
Caterham Valley. The then vicar, Rev. Geoffrey Longsdon, told me that I had to
attend the newly created Carnival Committee to represent the church. The first
meeting was held in the autumn of 1958 in the room above the St. John Ambulance
Station in Timber Hill Road.

The meeting had been convened by Mrs Muriel Simpson (subsequently Councillor
Simpson) and, as far as I can remember, the other members were Coun. John Grainger,
who became Chairman, Frank Green, manager of the (then) National Provincial Bank,
who became Treasurer, Coun. Bob Gearing, Mr. Gil Powell (the chemist and member of
Caterham Round Table), Mr. Harry Kerridge (then conductor of the Community Choir)
and Mr Trevor Jones. Mrs Simpson became the Secretary. We met every month from
October to May to plan the following year’s Carnival, usually on the second
Saturday in June. There was a meeting in September to which the recipients of
the current year’s donations were invited.

Later on it was felt that there should be more self-help by the local organisations
supported and they were invited to send a representative to join the committee or
at least run a stall on Westway.

The date of the Carnival was arranged to fit in with the Brigade of Guards at the
Barracks as they always provided a band or gymnastic display.

The first idea to raise funds and have an occasion at which to crown the Carnival
Queen and appoint her two attendants was to have a fashion show. I think this was
put on by Kerry’s of Croydon Road and was held in the ballroom of the (then) Valley
Hotel – now part of Church Walk Shopping Centre. I believe the format of the
evening was to have some fashion displays, then the Carnival Queen competition –
for which we arranged a panel of judges – then some more fashion before the results
of the competition were announced. The winner of the competition was Carnival
Queen for the year, during which she would probably be invited to attend other
local events, and the two runners-up would be her attendants on the day. After the
first year the previous year’s Queen always crowned her successor.

In later years another pre-Carnival event was a Darts Competition between teams
from local pubs and other organisations and businesses. This was first held in the
Youth Centre in Godstone Road, Caterham, but subsequently moved to the Community

It was felt that we needed something else to boost the event as well as the
Carnival procession so we invited Botton Brothers to bring their Fair for the
Carnival weekend and give us a donation.

We had to arrange for the stalls to be manned and Bob Gearing supplied some
sideshows from his own stock. There was also the catering and we had to arrange
arena events. I think our top event – at least in my time – would have been the
visit of a helicopter from R.A.F. Thorney Island but, on the Friday, the day before
the Carnival, their spare aircraft became unserviceable so the one that had been
earmarked to come to us had to remain on standby.

At the time I was working for Lloyd’s Insurance Brokers in the City so became
responsible for the Carnival Insurances (including cancelling the special one we
had to take out for the helicopter). This usually went smoothly and the Insurance
Company taking the main risks for the event also produced free posters for us.

The Carnival programme had to be printed and was distributed to such groups as
Scouts and Guides who could make a little for their funds by selling them door-to-
door in their area. Prizes were needed for the various winners in the Carnival
floats contest and for other competitions and we were all given an area to visit.
Our job was to see all the traders in the road to interest them in the Carnival and
to ask them to donate a prize. They were very generous and some gave cash, some
goods and others gave vouchers.

Then came the weekend of the Carnival and, being at work in the City, I was not
available until about 7 pm on the Friday evening. Tents and marquees had been
erected on Westway and I was usually involved in putting the pins and ropes around
the arena, setting up stalls and sideshows and generally helping where required.
This went on until about 10 pm when we were glad to go home.

On THE day we were up at Westway again by 9.30 am or so and were attending to last
minute things. Other organisations were arriving to set up their stalls and caterers
were arriving. I seem to recall that during the day we had to chase away several ice
cream vans that tried to sell without permission.

Then the judges for the floats arrived and were conducted over to the assembled line
of vehicles on the south side of Westway in their classes. The winning floats
displayed their place cards and the main prizes were presented when the procession
arrived back later in the afternoon and the winning floats were brought into the

The Carnival Fete was usually opened officially by the Chairman of the Council and
shortly after this the arena events started, running at times allocated in the
programme. One event held in a separate area, which attracted a lot of attention,
was the Dog Show.

The procession left after the judging and proceeded up the High Street, down Church
Hill, Croydon Road and Godstone Road to Whyteleafe Tavern. For two or three years a
separate procession which had started from Warlingham Green, joined the main
procession here. They then came up Whyteleafe Hill, round to Banstead Road and
finally re-entering Westway by the Caterham Arms. I don’t think the procession took
this long route for many years and was subsequently shortened by turning up Burntwood
Lane and joining the old route back.

The procession prizes were presented and this was followed by the Grand Draw.

Then came the clearing up and it was late Saturday evening before we had done what we
could but there were still some things left to do. So we arrived again on Westway on
Sunday morning to do the final clearing up, loading up and disposals. We were usually
just about finished by lunch-time.

As the Committee increased we outgrew the room at the Ambulance Station and the
meetings were transferred to a room at the rear of the Community Centre and I think
they were still held there after I left the committee following the 1969 Carnival.

A lot of the original members of the Carnival Committee have passed on but I am glad
that we laid a good basis for the Carnival still to be continuing 40 years later.

I spoke to Frank Green who was the first Treasurer. He is a resident in Woodlands
Nursing Home in Stanstead Road. He recalls that Rev. Gerald Walker, who was the
successor to Geoffrey Longsdon, as Vicar of St. John’s, invited him to use the then
Vicarage at No 1 Clareville Road to count the takings as it was brought from the
Carnival at Westway.

I had to liaise with Frank on the payment for the insurances on which, as far as I am
aware, we never made a claim.


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