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History Timeline

Bridgwater Carnival was now well and truly established in the community and has continued to grow and prosper ever since. Since 1881 there have been many memorable moments in the growth and development of carnival in the town. Here are just a few of them in a history timeline:


The Home Office became concerned about the manufacture of Bridgwater Squibs in homes throughout the town. The committee decided they could not be responsible for staging the carnival with the threat of a considerable fine being imposed if this practice continued. An underground movement was formed to ensure the carnival went ahead which it did!


Bridgwater celebrated the coronation of Edward VII by re-enacting the Royal procession with a long series of tableaux which included a replica of the magnificent State Coach, correct in every detail and drawn by eight cream coloured horses


First electric light bulbs used on an entry in the procession. Until now, the carts (floats) were illuminated with paraffin lamps, carried alongside the entry.


Bowing to pressure from the business community, the committee decided that future carnivals would be held on the Thursday nearest 5 November (Thursday being early closing day in the town) instead of 5 November itself as had been the custom.


First cup, the Ker Cup, presented to the carnival to be competed for annually by the gangs.


The area around the Cornhill was laid to tarmacadam, improving the road surface for the rapidly increasing motorised transport. Unfortunately, this material burns easily, especially under bonfires, and so the carnival committee reluctantly abandoned the Cornhill bonfire, thereby extinguishing forever its closest link with the events of 1605.


Horses used for the last time to pull a carnival club entry.


Carnival Concerts increased to twelve performances.


Only eight Bridgwater clubs competed in this year s carnival and it seemed as if the diminishing popularity of participating in the event was due to the ever increasing appeal of watching television!


Carnival Calendars printed and sold as souvenirs for the first time.


Bridgwater Carnival was captured on film and video copies made available as souvenirs.


To maintain its position as the country s premier carnival, the organisers of the parade decided that it would be held in on a Friday in future, the first change in the day of the festivities since 1909. This change inevitably also saw the demise of Black Friday, a day of celebrations for carnivalities, a tradition which first appeared in the early 1960s. However resilient carnivalities now hold their celebrations on the Sunday after Bridgwater Carnival.


The Spirit of Carnival statue was unveiled on the Cornhill in October of this year. This permanent reminder of the importance of the carnival to past, present and future generations of people stands proudly on the spot where it all began 400 years ago.

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