The story of Hanwell Carnival begins on 12 October 1898. Following the success of similar events in Southall, it was decided to stage a cycle carnival with a lantern parade. 80 game competitors, many in costume, assembled at Hanwell football field (now Elthorne Park) which had been illuminated with fairy lights, and prizes were awarded for the best-decorated bikes and riders. A procession (not race) followed around the streets with bucket collections along the route, raising funds for Hanwell Cottage Hospital which would open in 1900.
Nine months later it was decided to hold an event on Churchfields in celebration of the Crown’s victories in South Africa. Children had sports and tea with adults enjoying concerts. The procession around the main and side roads, was declared a pageant with collections for the War Fund and the Cottage Hospital. The entrance of Churchfields was decorated lavishly: It was a great success.
On 16 September 1899 another cycle carnival was held after the success of last year’s. The Broadway was decorated with flags and streamers with shopkeepers fully involved. On 31 August 1901 funds for the Hospital were raised via a parade of Hanwell’s friendly and benefit societies of and a public garden party. Dancing took place in the grounds of The Park Hotel (on the corner of Greenford Avenue and Tennyson Road) from 7 to 10 pm.
Between 1902 and 1921 Hanwell hosted many and several band festivals, again uniting the community in the spirit of togetherness On 23 September 1922, there was an allotment show, an open market, a ceremonial cricket match and a wireless exhibition. A procession left Elthorne Park proceeding around Hanwell streets and back to the park where prizes for the best decorated motor & horse vehicles and cycles were awarded. While the procession was going on local children and adults enjoyed various sports in the park . The considerable sum of £700 was accrued for hospital funds. Between 1923 and 1939 a similar event occurred each year in June with slight changes; one of which was a bonny baby contest that launched in 1935. In 1942 two fetes were held at Ravenor Park with proceeds divided between Ealing and Hanwell Hospitals. On 26 May 1945 there was another joint fete with Ealing when over 15,000 people attended. This appears to have been the last organised carnival until 1961.
THE REVIVAL OF CARNIVAL
Billy Smart, the circus ringmaster, had long associations with Hanwell and showmanship was in his blood, so, as President of the revived carnival, it was sure to be a razzle-dazzle triumph. On 17 June 1961, Billy Smart cut the ribbon at 3pm just as a parade of 46 floats arrived, having assembled in Manor Court Road at 1pm, it followed a similar route to that we use today. At the front was the Hanwell Silver Band tooting popular anthems and feelgood fanfares. Inside the park, 10,000 visitors came to make merry; alongside traditional games, bijoux and curiosities, there was a dog show and extravagant prize draws including a brand-new Mini Cooper which was driven away by one lucky local. For the next 35 years, 34 new cars were given away in prizes, the last of which was raffled off in 1996. The 1961 event had a spectacular finale with a 30-minute firework display from the rough ground to the rear of the park.
The Carnival Queen has been a popular staple of Hanwell Carnival, she used to be crowned at a special dance held at the Park Hotel, Greenford Avenue. Indeed, the queen of 1939 attended the relaunch event. Carnival queen is on hiatus but may make a return one day; other mainstays of carnivals gone by have included bonny baby contests, a Punch & Judy show (oh yes there was), ballroom dancing on the tennis courts and dog agility shows. More recently we have seen a WI bake-off, a kiddie’s steam railway and, older residents may remember the wrestling tournaments of the 1970s where sweaty men tussled for a trophy.
After an enforced break in 2021 because of the pandemic, last year Carnival returned with a triumph. As a community, we look forward to our 250th anniversary in 2148 when our great-great-great grandchildren will carry on this happy celebration.
With thanks to David Blackwell and his exceptional knowledge of the local history.