Glimpses of the Norwich Carnival

  • Theme - Events
  • Year - 1931
  • Location - Norwich
  • Filmmaker - Unknown


On the 9th July,1931 an unknown amateur cameraman, standing among the spectators, filmed the carnival procession taking place to raise funds for the Norwich Hospital. The organiser, Captain W W J Hurt, hoped to raise £1,000 by holding the event. The hospital was a charity, reliant on public support. At the time it had a deficit of £41,000 and was losing £6,000 each year. Collectors rattled boxes for donations during the procession but spectators could avoid being asked for a donation by purchasing an ‘immunity badge’ for two shillings in advance.

The floats set off from Newmarket Road at 4 pm. The parade passes the old Regent Cinema on Prince of Wales Road accompanied by music from the marching band of 4th Norfolk Territorial’s. Traditionally, the floats were themed. Many chose medical subjects, while others reflected local industries like fishing. A key figure in the early history of Norwich appears in the form of Snap the Dragon, who in the 1300’s would lead the annual pageant held by a religious and charitable organisation called the Guild of St George. Among the impressive floats in the procession is “Mingo the Measle” - a 40 foot long costume propelled by twenty boys from the City of Norwich School.

The procession is filmed at other points along the route. The Royal Hotel and the Post Office building are recognisable in the background as the carnival crosses Prince of Wales Road. Judging took place at the old cattle market which was beside the Castle.
At 7.00 pm that evening, the Lord Mayor, Miss Mabel Clarkson, conducted the prize giving ceremony outside the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, awarding the prizes for the best costumes and floats. The carnival queen, Miss Kathleen Vincent was crowned by the Matron.

The day ended with “Thurstons” fun fair, set up at Grove Meadow on the Ipswich Road, close to Hospital.

This film shows how much effort and energy went into fancy dress carnivals in this era. The footage also gives us an insight into how civic ceremonies were conducted and how people spent their leisure time in the 1930’s.


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