How carnival came to Honiton...

Honiton Carnival years gone by

Honiton Carnival in years gone by - Credit: Honiton Museum

Guy Fawkes festivities were always strongest in the West Country, a historically Protestant region. 

On ‘The Fifth’, as it was always known in Honiton, the townspeople celebrated with fireworks and huge fires which blazed in the High Street outside The Angel, Three Tuns, White Lion, Chopping Knife, and the Star in New Street. 

Burning tar barrels were rolled in the streets. 

In 1880, things got a bit out of hand when pane of glass in the door of the Star Inn was smashed, and an old four-wheeled coach was seized from the Vine yard and thrown onto a fire near the Dolphin Hotel.

In 1895, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of Thomas Mutter and for the first time the ‘Fifth’ celebration was called a carnival. 

A torchlit and illuminated procession took place on November 7. 150 torch bearers in fancy dress costumes, two bands, cyclists, clowns, a minstrel troupe, handbell ringers and hundreds of others assembled at Bramble Hill. 

On route through New Street to High Street, the procession collected money for the Honiton Soup Kitchen. The mayor's daughter lit a huge bonfire at the top of the town. 

Most Read

The following year there was no organised event, but as was the usual custom, the cannon was fired and fireworks were lit.

It was decided not to organise a carnival in 1899 because of the Boer War and it was not reinstated until 1905. 

In 1906, the carnival took place despite torrential rainstorms throughout the entire day and night which kept many spectators away. 

In 1907 the organising committee had 50 members. In addition to the torchlight procession, side shows were held in the Dolphin Market Room and a dance in the Army Hall. 

The carnival was suspended again during the years of the First World War. Instead, a Hospital Parade was held to raise funds for the Honiton Nursing Association, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and West England Eye Infirmary.

The carnival was a tremendous success in 1919. The Market House was transformed into a World Fair - described as a fairyland. 

Three years later the police stopped all tar barrels, fireworks, and bonfires on the highway in connection with the carnival. 

And in 1925, the magistrates refused to allow a sideshow in the Market Hall to have a licence to allow a game of fishing for bottles of Bass beer.

Because of recurring severe weather, it was decided in 1938 to change the date and hold a summer carnival with a battle of flowers and bathing belle parade.