What are your memories of Norwich’s Easter fair?

PUBLISHED: 18:15 29 March 2016 | UPDATED: 08:17 30 March 2016

Easter funfair at Chapelfield Gardens.
Picture: Antony Kelly

Easter funfair at Chapelfield Gardens. Picture: Antony Kelly

Archant Norfolk 2016

The smell of candy floss and the excited shouts of youngsters enjoying one of the array of colourful rides - all the fun of the fair returned to Norwich over Easter.

A panoramic view of Norwich Fair from the top of the helter-skelter in April 1979.A panoramic view of Norwich Fair from the top of the helter-skelter in April 1979.

The city’s Chapelfield Gardens has been playing host to the Easter funfair, with dodgems, a helter skelter, a runaway train, giant slide, funhouse among the thrills and spills being enjoyed.

But the use of the city park is a relatively recent chapter in the centuries old tradition of Norwich hosting an Easter fair, as these photographs show.

An Easter fair for horses and cattle was originally held at the city’s Saxon market place in Tombland, but it seems to have made the switch to Castle Hill by the 17th century.

For years, the Cattle Market site was the location for the fair, but in the 1940s 84,000 people signed a petition against it being moved.

Norwich Easter Fair on March  30, 1961.Norwich Easter Fair on March 30, 1961.

The Showmen’s Guild had to fight a move again in the 1960s and, up until the 1980s, it remained the site of the Easter event.

Before today’s high voltage fun, fairs tended to offer freakshows and novelty acts. After marvelling at cows, sheep and chickens born with abnormalities, fairgoers could wonder at Rona The Rat Girl, a scantily clad woman who used to lie in a pit and allow dozens of rats to crawl all over her body.

In 1955 the fair boasted 18-year-old Annie Black, of Hoxton, who sat reading in a 10ft high bottle for the duration of the fair.

Other attractions from yesteryear included cake walks - a Victorian favourite attraction where people tried to walk to the end of a wobbly board and steam swing boats.

The dodgems at the Norwich Easter Fair on April 9, 1985.The dodgems at the Norwich Easter Fair on April 9, 1985.

But rides such as dodgems and helter skelters - always a favourite of young at heart fathers taking their children to the fair - are just as popular today as they were in times gone by.

The fair finally did move from the Cattle Market in 1988, because of work to build the Castle Mall. It switched to the livestock market in Hall Road. From 1992 it was based in Castle Meadow and Gentleman’s Walk.

It was 1999 when the fair moved to Chapelfield Gardens, although The Showmen’s Guild had said it would have preferred to have stuck to Castle Meadow.

Today is the final day of the city’s Easter fair. It is open from 11am to 10pm. But there is another date on the calendar for fairground fans. Great Yarmouth Easter Fair takes on the town’s market place this coming weekend.

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