Honley Feast (1877)

The 1877 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 23 September and Wednesday 26 September.

Just over a week before the feast, Chief Inspector White acted on information that there was a bootleg whisky operation in Berry Brow. After obtaining a search warrant, he accompanied David Thom of the Inland Revenue to the residence of 80-year-old William Kitson on Waingate where they found 35 gallons of fermenting worts and half-a-gallon of whisky, along with all the necessary equipment to distill. It was suspected that Kitson had already managed to sell much of his illicit wares, likely to families in Honley preparing for the feast. In court, it was stated that the accused had several previous convictions and magistrate J.F. Brigg fined the old man £60 or instead serve a sentence of six months at Wakefield Gaol.[1]

The Wooldale and Cartworth School Board "decided not to close schools during Honley Feast week."[2]

Heavy rain spoiled the start of the feast.

As with previous years, most of the outdoor attractions and amusements were in Lockwood rather than Honley. On offer were the usual selection of photographic booths, strength testing machines, and swing boasts. For those wanting something more unusual, there were fat women — including "The Yorkshire Twins", Margaret and Jane Smith[3] — as well as four albino children with "white hair and pink eyes." Even stranger, two mermaids from the Arctic seas were exhibited, with "heads resembling the lion of the forest, the bodies are like a leopard, and the tails like the fins of a fish."[4]

Also on show at the feast was "Mr. Pongo", the first live gorilla to be exhibited around Europe. Bought from a tribe in Gabon, apparently for two gallons of rum, he was sometimes presented as Darwin's missing link. British newspapers reported that Pongo drank wine and smoked cigarettes, but seemed nonplussed when given paper and a pencil — after making a few scribbles, he proceeded to eat the pencil . Sadly, the young gorilla died suddenly in Berlin a few weeks after appearing at the feast.[5]

Notes and References

  1. "Seizure of an Illicit Whisky Still at Berry Brow" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (24/Sep/1877).
  2. "Wooldale and Cartworth School Board" in Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Sep/1877).
  3. The Nottinghamshire Guardian (04/Oct/1878) bizarrely claimed that the twins weighed a total of 80 tons, which would be over 80,000 kilograms!
  4. Fake stuffed animals, stitched together from the bodies of several different creatures, were popular attractions at Victorian fairs.
  5. Following his death, Pongo was dissected and a glove button, iron wire and a number of pins were found in his stomach.