Scenes from Letchworth's Golden Jubilee

Originally printed issue 79  December 1999

By Anne Godshalk


Sorting out some old newspapers recently, my eye was caught by the headline "Fruitarians, nutarians, simple-lifers, long-robed near-nudists" - as well it might. 

The paper proved to be the Special Jubilee Fair Number of The Citizen, Friday 4 September 1953. 

I worried over the near-nudists in their long robes, but found It was editor's license, and what Leslie Bennett (sorry, Mr. Leslie Bennett - we forget the old formality,) actually said was"... long haired men, women with long flowing robes, and a few as near nude as they dared."

His main complaint, as a youngster, was that these people ("Cranks we called them") were taking over his favourite birds' nesting site. 

The occasion for these reminiscences was a speech at the Stockholders' Luncheon at Letchworth Hall Hotel on 2 September. "After lunch the party toured the Garden City in coaches. They stopped at the Town Square and many alighted to walk through the gardens. [They probably needed a walk by then.] Tea was served at the Icknield Hall." Oddly, there is no mention of their visiting the Jubilee Fair en route.

The Citizen's front page picture shows a large crowd outside the marquee for the opening of the Industry and Trade Fair by Mr. Woodbridge on Tuesday 1 September. Admission was 6d, and attendance was so great - over 11,000 in the first two days - that arrangements were made to continue the Fair until the Saturday night. 

What exhibition organiser would have that experience today !

"Crowds gathered in Eastcheap to watch the K&L cranes and S&D lifters. The Spirella corsetry display attracted many people and the mannequin parade by Messrs. E. E. Spinks Ltd. was attended by hundreds."

Each trade or industry organised its own area within the marquee. I can remember my father's Hive Printers stand, with its glass demonstration hive of a working bee colony.

There must have been a lot of movement and plenty to watch; so much indeed that the loudspeaker system was kept busy reuniting lost children with their parents, or vice versa - "Oh, no, I'm not lost but my grandmother is!". 

Young lady machinists stitched away on the Irving Airchute stand, and Cooper Stewart gave free haircuts with the firm's electric clippers. A sign at the back of the stand states "Cooper-Stewart Electric Fence Insulators" but the man having his hair trimmed does not seem overly concerned. Meanwhile, The Letchworth Bacon Company estimated that they gave away 15,000 delicious sausages.

Clearly the time extension paid off; in fact Mr. J. D. Ritchie, secretary and manager of First Garden City Ltd. claimed that the Fair "far exceeded our wildest dreams".. The 30,000th visitor arrived at 6.15pm on Saturday, and when it finally closed, at a quarter past nine, the total attendance had been 33,002. Curiously, a woollen jacket was given to the 10,000th visitor, a fountain pen to the 20,000th and a fireside chair to the 30,000th.