Web Page 2034
15th March 2014
Top Picture: Walls Brothers Fair Van
Middle Picture: 1950’s Fair Tractor Unit
Bottom Picture: Steam Powered Gallopers
All the Fun of the Fair
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the August Bank Holiday was eagerly awaited because we all knew that the travelling Fun Fair would be setting up on the hill near the Queen Alexandra Hospital. This originally started as a ‘Trading Fair’ and was an extension of the Free Mart Fair held in Old Portsmouth. As time went by it was transformed into a ‘Fun Fair’ with all the usual attractions. It proved to be very popular with the locals but there was always a certain amount of trouble in the early days of the ‘Treading Fair’ and a small lock-up was built to the east of Fort Widley to contain any trouble makers who were held here until the end of the Fair and then released!
There were several travelling fairs in the area, Davis, Rose and Matthews but the largest and the one that visited Portsdown Hill was run by Johnny Wall & Son. The Wall family are still running and I believe that Johnny’s granddaughter Debbie runs the show now. This particular travelling Fair was established in 1881 by the Wall Brothers of Farnborough, when everything was moved around in horse drawn trucks, they then progressed onto steam power and eventually todays trailer mounted fun fair rides. The Wall family hold the Charter rights to all the Traditional Charter Fairs in Hampshire, such as Petersfield, Alresford, Wickham, and Alton as well as Haslemere in Surrey, Chichester Sloe Fair and Marlborough Mops. Today’s family business is based at Hook and tours annually all the established venues including Basingstoke, Fleet, Aldershot, Old Windsor, Andover, Southampton, Gosport and Eastbourne, but Portsdown Hill has long disappeared off their list of venues. The company still operate, maintain or support a wide variety of vintage fun fair vehicles that often attend a variety of rallies across the country.
Most folks in the area always welcomed the five days of the fair. During the day the place was packed with children and parents and the swings and roundabouts would be working full tilt for hours on end. The sideshows were always popular as were the Candy Floss and toffee apple stalls.
Come the evening the whole atmosphere of the fair changed, the lights went on, the music got louder and the teenagers descended on the place. I remember walking up there to wander round the stalls, not spending much, not even on the rifle ranges and never the coconut shies, as I hate coconut. The whole area was riddled with groups of lads trying their luck with the groups of girls wandering around the site. I must admit I never struck lucky and always went home with the group of lads I went with. Once you had a regular partner it was the accepted thing to go to the fair. Here you could cuddle upon the rides, try your luck on the stalls and feast on greasy beef burgers, hot dogs or freshly cooked doughnuts. The atmosphere, the smell, the music combined with the shouts of the Barkers at all the different stalls made for a very exciting and enjoyable evening.
I remember taking Pam up to the fair one year when we had only been going out for a few weeks. On one of the stalls I won her a black Plaster of Paris poodle with a red bow round the neck, we both agreed that it was a ghastly thing. Pam took it home and placed it in her bedroom and when we married she brought it with her and strangely enough somewhere in the loft that black dog still survives as a memory of our youth, whenever we turn the loft out we both look at it and say shall we throw it away and then both say ‘No’ and it goes back in the box.
One thing that was always done just after the fair had left was to go and search the fairground for any lost coins, the fair ground people collected most of it but there was always the chance that you would be able to pick up a penny, florin or half crown!
All was well at the fair whilst the sun shone and the evenings were warm and balmy however if it turned out to be a wet Bank Holiday, the fair was deserted after all one cannot look the pick of the modern fashion whilst wearing gumboots!
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News and Views:
On this Day 15th March 1960-1965
On 15/03/1560 the number one single was Running Bear - Johnny Preston and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was The Larkins (ATV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/03/1561 the number one single was Walk Right Back/Ebony Eyes - Everly Brothers and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/03/1562 the number one single was Rock-a-Hula Baby/Can't Help Falling In Love - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the week was Skull found buried in Downing Street.
On 15/03/1563 the number one single was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Conservative Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champion.
On 15/03/1564 the number one single was Little Children - Billy J Kramer and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Conservative Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/03/1565 the number one single was The Last Time - Rolling Stones and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.