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Local historian John Taylor takes a look at the entertainments available in Bletchley in 1887

Entertainments in 1887
St Martin's Church, Fenny Stratford.

Sunday Citizen January 13, 2002

Our travels in time for this article take us back to the year 1887 and a look at the entertainments that were then available in the town and the celebrations that were taking place.

For those local residents, or travellers, seeking more general relaxation, formerly the Post Office the new rooms at the Bletchley Station Coffee Tavern were opened in April by the chairman of the LNWR, Richard Moon and thereby, those sympathetic to the ideals and increasing activities of the Temperance Movement (their original hall, built in George Street in 1892 still remains) no doubt found this a welcome balance, to the otherwise lure of the many pubs in the locality.

Fenny Stratford Town Hall, long associated with the varied talents of the singing Walfords, a family whose repertoire included an ability to knock out tunes on semi-filled wine bottles, often provided a venue for indoor entertainments and in May, here was staged the return visit of Mr E De Vere and Mr HJ Moseleys' especially selected Company of London Artists including, not least, 'the Parisian Danseuse', Miss Blanche.

Elsewhere, perhaps as more of a benefit performance, providing for the 'entertainment of parishioners and observance of Saint Martin's Day" the Saint Martin's House charily generated an annual income of £510s 6d, this rental being expended on a dinner, rates, tradesmen's bills, the vicar's fee and bell ringing.

Celebrations of a national importance had also to be considered and in the instance of those celebrating 50 years of Queen Victoria's reign, to locally mark the occasion three schemes vied for acceptance.

At the National School the consequent attendance at a public meeting proved an unfortunate disappointment but it was nevertheless decided to appoint a committee of 20, to consider the relative merits of each scheme; a) to complete a pea! of bells for Saint Martin's church, b) to establish a Literary and Scientific Institute or c) to declare a public holiday.

At the conclusion, the idea of the bells appealed.

During the summer, inhabitants of a sporting inclination could enjoy the facilities of a newly formed archery and lawn tennis club while for the masses, on August Bank Holiday, in a field kindly lent by Mr Makeham, along Bletchley road, the Fenny Stratford Flower Show took place, enlivened by a series of athletic events.

Mr Harley Gates, of the Bull and Butcher, supplied alcoholic drinks and with a nod towards political correctness, for the first time a tent was provided with special seats for the ladies.

At 3 pm the sports commenced, with matters much enlightened when a hurdler fainted and a wheel fell off one of the bikes.

In an opposite field a steam merry-go-round was set up and many showmen and stall keepers vied for trade until, 9 pm, the Fenny Stratford Town Band led proceedings to a field lent by Mr G Hoidom, where a display of fireworks brought the day to a close.

Yet there were still other festivities on the horizon, especially in December when Mr George Sanger brought his "World-famed English and Continental Circus' to town.

Enclosed by a 'Grand Waterproof Pavilion', which could accomrr 20,000 people in seated, carp draught free comfort (except fc lowlife in the 'sixpences') this' Only Olympia' arrived with 'All and Daring of Ancient Rome', 1 include the perils of chariot racing!

As if this wasn't enough, an 'Exciting Kangaroo Hunt' then took place with six real kangaroos - the most mirth provoking exhibition ever witnessed'.

Onlookers and possibly kangaroos also jumped for joy when Buffalo Bill Wainer and his Bully Boys took the ring and events were brought to a grand finale by the 'Grand Tableaux', of 50 horses and 100 men.

Ye Gods, it all makes present day life in Fenny seem positively tame by comparison!