Victoria Park Portsmouth

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Living it up 1920s-style

On Friday 22 June 1923, a huge fete opened in Victoria Park and carried on all weekend. The Evening News published several long reports. Here are some highlights:

  • “The Victoria Park Fete, Fair and Baby Show, in aid of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital and Mayor’s Charities, was yesterday favoured by gloriously fine weather, and it was given a bumper send-off, several thousands of people having a right rollicking time…”
  • There was a fun fair, with rides including galloping horses, a “scenic railway”, “chair-o-planes” and “laughing mirrors”. Various raffles and competitions offered prizes: “a season ticket at Fratton Park for next season, a bed complete, an amethyst brooch, a Portsmouth-made mangle, two cycles, a miniature perambulator and a ton of coal”.
  • Almost 300 babies were entered into the “baby beauty competition”. Mothers were asked to “not only be patient, but to assist the judges and not crowd round in the way they did yesterday…”
  • There were several whist drives and boxing matches and in the evening “great fun was caused by the singing competition, the prize for which was a live pig, that had to be held while a song was sung. Little Miss Ada Young of 150, Queen Street, Portsea, was a popular and proud winner. Tonight the competition will be for men…”

Music without dancing

The first ever bandstand concert was held in Victoria Park on 4 June 1883:

MUSIC FOR THE PEOPLE

Last evening the band of the Portsea Island Union opened the bandstand season in the Victoria Park, Portsmouth. Over 1,000 programmes were sold and between 2,000 and 3,000 people were outside the ring… Mr Tarring, of Prince George Street, kindly supplied the youthful musicians with lemonade.”

Concerts became a regular summer entertainment in the park. Civilian and military bands played popular tunes – but dancing was forbidden until 1922. It was felt that it would lead to unruly and improper behaviour!