Yeovil Hospital Carnivals

yeovil hospital Carnivals

Annual carnivals supporting the new hospital in Bide's Gardens


By the time of the First World War it was becoming clear that the Fiveways Hospital was too small for its purpose. In 1916 the hospital trustees purchased Kingston Manor, from the estate of Thomas Dampier-Bide, together with its extensive grounds known as Bide's Gardens, with the intention of building a new larger hospital. Because of the war, building on the new hospital site did not begin until 1921, the foundation stone being laid in June of that year. The new Yeovil General Hospital opened, and the first patients were admitted, on 16 December 1922. The new hospital was officially opened on 19 July 1923 by HRH the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII.

Initially in order to furnish funds for the 'New Hospital Building Fund' and later to buy equipment, Yeovil held an annual carnival during the early 1920s. A popular town event, these were not the illuminated street carnivals held in the evening during the late twentieth century, but daytime walking processions with the occasional motorised float. Rivalry among the competitors was keen and the topics chosen for the floats and walking entries were kept fiercely secret.

The parade always assembled at Sidney Gardens, before it set off down Reckleford, up through Middle Street and finished back at the park. The marshals had their own brand of crowd control - they rode horses alongside the parade, like mounted police, to keep back the crowds.

As far as can be ascertained, the hospital carnivals were held from 1921 to around 1925.




Local landmarks often featured in the comic classes and the sight of the familiar Yeovil Gas Works hooter, seen here, brought smiles to the crowd standing and braving this wet 1921 carnival day.


A colourised photograph of the 1922 carnival, as it passes Osborne House and the Western Gazette offices at right.


A colourised photograph of the Yeovil Fire Brigade passing through the crowds atop their fire engine during the 1922 event.


The 'Robin Troupe' pose for a photograph outside the premises of printer, bookseller and newsagent Henry Balls in Middle Street. Again, in 1922.


Courtesy of Alan Jackson

Staff and pupils of Pen Mill School in costume for the 1922 Hospital Carnival.


Courtesy of Alan Jackson

The 1923 carnival entry from Pen Mill School had pupils representing the three countries that make up the United Kingdom. Ireland on the left in a shamrock decorated dress, Scotland on the right in a kilt and feather in her cap and Britannia representing England holding her trident and shield and representatives of the British empire at the front (or is this representing Wales? or was Wales completely forgotten?) and at the back (in the days when "blacking-up" was socially acceptable).  


The Yeovil Carnival of 1923 was again held to raise money for the new hospital.


An undated Hospital Carnival of the 1920s shows that entries were invariably walking entries. The procession moves along Lower Middle Street, almost opposite the Liberal Club.


A motorised float during what is believed to be the final hospital carnival in 1925.


A colourised photograph of a 1925 carnival float. Not acceptable today but, nevertheless, it should be remembered that while 1925 was a different time with different attitudes and values, it still forms part of our town's history.


Courtesy of Hazel Giddings

A token from the 1925 Yeovil Hospital Carnival. Its purpose or use is unknown.