Treasure of the Week no. 18: Galas & Fents in Peel Park

JND 194/8 (Please quote this number if requesting this item)

jnd 194 8 c 001

BOOTH’S FENT WAREHOUSESProgramme for the Annual West Riding Galas held in Peel Park, Bradford, Whisuntide, 1888.

Galas and Melas have been held in Peel Park for many years, but what went on in these festivals has changed greatly. In 1888 the Gala lasted two days and in the Library’s pamphlet collection we have the 16-page programme of events  sponsored by Booth’s Fent Warehouses. Fents were basically animal skins and Booth’s, whose main shops were in Well Street, Bradford and Albion Street, Leeds, made sure that people who purchased the programme for one penny could not escape knowing about their products. There were full page adverts for Booth’s Umbrellas, Booth’s Scotch Tweed, Booth’s Cheviots, Booth’s Doeskins, Booth’s Meltons, Booth’s Beaver, Booth’s Italians, Booth’s Silesias, and much else. Products long forgotten.

So much for fents. What went on at Peel Park in the spring of 1888? A lot! Amusements included:

Coco, Little Coco & Gertie Volta  – ‘The Ape at Home’

Harry Lyons & Nellie Danvers – Shooting Act

Brothers Ormonde – Acrobats and Vaulters

Sheriff – Performing Elephant

Henri Benham – Equilibrist and Mountain of Chairs

Sgt. Simms & Troup – Zouave Drill

Newham & Downes – Black Clowns

Cruikshank Family – Jugglers and Balances

Maldavan & Pedro – The Red Men

The Marzelos – Horizontal Bat, Double Clowns

Prof. Atherton – Dogs and Monkeys

Julius Keller – The German Waiter

Mademoiselle Eske & Volier – Gymnasts

Mademoiselle Senide – The Lovely Queen of the Desert, in her Den with Lion, Bear, and Panther

Zalva & Alvar – On the High Wires

There were fireworks by Professor Wells, whose displays included The Wheel of Ixion and the Revolving Fountain. There was Professor Smith with his Famous Punch & Judy Show Performing at Intervals; There was a full music programme – Six military bands, including the  2nd West York Artillery and local orchestras such as the Postmen’s Band, the Manningham Band, and the Bradford Borough Band played a wide repertoire of music.

About eight o’ clock each night, weather permitting, inventor Eric Stuart Bruce, was to personally supervise the ascent of ‘The Electrical War Balloon! For Flashing Signals at Night, As Supplied to the English and Belgian Governments’.

And, of course, there were Refreshment Tents, Stalls, Swings, Bowling Tents, Shooting Galleries, Dancing, &c., on the Fair Ground.

Imagination is required to understand what some of these activities were about. Performing animals, black clowns, and Punch & Judy would now be frowned on, but I can’t help wishing I was there, at Peel Park, in 1888, watching Zalva & Alvar on the high wires, and the Fireworks, listening to the Bands, visiting the Refreshment Tents, and waiting impatiently for the ascent of the flashing signals from The Electrical War Balloon!


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