Soham’s Clubs and Leisure Facilities – A short and Concise History
A Pleasure Fair held with the Whitsun horse fair still attracted swings and roundabouts in the 1860s, but was declining by the 1880s. Soham’s chief 19th-century holiday was the village feast, by the 1750s starting on the Monday after Midsummer, the date selected for one of the fairs granted in 1679 to Sir Thomas Chicheley. Usually held by the 1840s from Monday to Wednesday, the feast continued to flourish, even though fewer travelling show men appeared in the 1870s and 1880s, in the 1890s. From the 1850s it included a cricket match. From c. 1850 to the early 1880s the landlord of the Crown brought down singers and acrobats from London to perform on his bowling green, also displaying fireworks. A local amateur brass band, founded by 1853, gave outdoor gala concerts, still attended by up to 1,500 people in the 1880s. An outdoor ‘gipsy tea’ on the Thursday after, which Soham temperance supporters started c.1855 in protest at excesses of conviviality during the feast, was from the late 1860s co-opted as a customary part of it. From 1860 to c.1875 the Anglican clergy sponsored, during their July Sunday-school festivities, flower and vegetable shows for cottagers, revived for allotment-holders from 1888 by a Horticultural Society. From the late 1890s to the 1920s the feast was gradually overshadowed by a parade, started by the vicar c.1898, held on the Sunday before in support of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. From 1953 a carnival was held yearly at Whitsun, organized by the Soham Benevolent Association to raise funds for local causes: in the 1960s, at its peak it attracted c. 15,000 visitors. Its parade of floats was replaced from 1973with a show of up to 100 heavy horses, grazed on Soham’s commons. The carnival was supplemented from 1976 by an autumn ‘pumpkin fair’, also continuing in the 1990.