Tandridge Past: Fetes and fairs

This month, the museum is looking at local summer fairs and fetes.

To this day, a number of towns and villages across East Surrey organise an array of summer fairs and fetes. Tandridge Fete and Warlingham Fair both took place in June, with the latter also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But the right to hold a fair in Godstone dates all the way back to 1251, and this picture from the museum’s collection shows the fair in 1906, held on the Green. The present-day fete dates back to 1943, with 2023’s event scheduled for the August bank holiday, the same day as Chaldon Fete. Historically, Lingfield also held a summer fair, although this tradition now seems to have morphed more into regular antiques events.

Also in the collection we hold an intriguing, stylised flyer from the Caterham & Warlingham Urban District Festival 1951. The flyer’s distinctive logo – featuring a helmeted figurehead atop a four-pointed star, with bunting around the horizontal axis – links this local event to the famous Festival of Britain. This cultural celebration, described as a ‘tonic for the nation’, which was undergoing reconstruction after World War II, was mainly focused on London’s South Bank. But villages and towns around the nation were also invited to hold their own festivities. 

Caterham and Warlingham held a ‘Three-in-One’ show in Queen’s Park on Saturday, 28 July. A souvenir programme priced 3d was printed, with all proceeds going to the ‘Festival Memorial Fund’. The main festival itinerary included a gala dance, a fancy dress carnival and sporting events. For some, the extravagance of the festivities was too much, particularly after wartime and some continuing austerity. Surrey Heritage details ‘letters of opposition’ to costs, as well as religious objections to events scheduled for Sundays. It is noted that even composer Ralph Vaughan Williams cautioned on the danger of ‘overdoing things’, preferring a steady extension of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mantra of the preceding years, with a just shot or two of appropriate vigour: keeping spirits up without excessive indulgence.

The restraint of the 1951 festival contrasts with today’s events, even though there has been a trend towards rediscovering the crafts and simpler pursuits of the last century and previously. But, in the light of the challenging years from which we have just emerged, it might be argued that a new nationwide tonic is needed. 

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