Honley Feast (1879)

The 1879 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 21 September and Wednesday 24 September.

The Huddersfield School Board controversially announced that the usual week off given to scholars during the Honley Feast was being abandoned in favour of giving them an extra week at Christmas. A correspondent from Lockwood wrote to the Chronicle to complain that there couldn't be an ordinary working man on the board or else they would know working families would much prefer things to remain as they were.[1]

Throughout the 1870s, the epicentre of the feast had increasingly become Lockwood and the Chronicle reported that Huddersfield Corporation had even gone as far as wording their official placards as "Lockwood Feast".[2] The newspaper estimated the visitor numbers were at least half of the previous years.

The main fairground was situated in fields off Albert Street in Lockwood. Amongst the attractions were "a Turkish mutilated lady" without arms or hands who was said to be "a living proof of the Bulgarian atrocities", the "Dramatic and Burlesque Company" theatre, a couple of the "Emperor of Russia's wolf hounds, and a booth of "Living Curiosities". Also on show was "the greatest Huddersfield girl, Elizabeth Bedford, the largest female ever seen" who, together with another giantess from Manchester, weighed a combined total of 80 stone.[3]

The Chronicle felt that part of the reason for the drop in visitor numbers at the feast was due to the crowds taking advantage of the cheap day rail excursions that were laid on to Liverpool, Blackpool and Manchester.

Peter Carrol[4], a hawker from Keighley, had been found selling toys without a hawker's license at the previous feast, but due to his poverty was left off with a caution after he promised not to offend again. However, he returned to the 1879 feast without a licence and was caught selling toys at a stall. In court, there was a brief debate of whether the accused was technically guilty of hawking or peddling, before Carrol was fined £5.[5]

Mary Ann Whittington, the proprietor of a shooting gallery, was charged with "using a gun at the Honley Feast without having a licence." In court, it was explained that normally anyone firing a gun required a licence, but at fairgrounds it was only necessary that gallery owned had a valid licence. Unfortunately for Whittington, she was apparently unaware of the law and could only plead ignorance in front of the magistrates for not having one. She was fined 50 shillings.[6]

The year before, Mary Ann Whittington had met a Scot named Henry Summers (or Somers) in York and became engaged to marry him. However, when she travelled up to Scotland to meet him again in December 1878, she discovered that he was already married. Reportedly she then confronted him and, in the heat of the moment, pulled out a loaded pistol which she aimed at him and then pulled the trigger. Fortunately for Henry, the pistol failed to fire.[7] The following March, the High Court rules the case not proven and she was released.[8]

Notes and References

  1. "School Holidays and Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Sep/1879).
  2. "Honley Feast at Lockwood" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (23/Sep/1879).
  3. Elizabeth's name may have been misreported by the Chronicle as there are no other obvious newspaper articles which mention her by that name.
  4. Most likely the Peter Carrol who was born in Ireland circa 1819 who was residing at Cabbage Place, Keighley, with his wife Mary at the time of the 1871 Census.
  5. "Hawking Without a Licence" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Sep/1879).
  6. "To Shooting Gallery Proprietors" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (30/Oct/1879).
  7. "The Attempt to Shoot at Leith" in Edinburgh Evening News (18/Dec/1878).
  8. "The Alleged Murder in Leigh" in Dundee Evening Telegraph (18/Mar/1879).