Village with a history of community fun

East Preston carnival parade, 1910. The pierrot on the right is Walter Booker, son of the village blacksmith
East Preston carnival parade, 1910. The pierrot on the right is Walter Booker, son of the village blacksmith

The theme of this year’s East Preston Festival is Brazilian Carnival, linked to the World Cup – but carnivals are nothing new in the village.

Rarely seen photographs show carnival processions in East Preston in the decade before the First World War, though we know that parades were organised in the 19th century too.

1906 carnival. Flowers of Preston, with Lily Hills, 14, as the central flower. Lily lived at Baytrees, in The Street

1906 carnival. Flowers of Preston, with Lily Hills, 14, as the central flower. Lily lived at Baytrees, in The Street

These early marches were organised by the Ancient Order of Foresters, a friendly society which provided sickness and unemployment benefits out of a fund to which working people subscribed in the days before National Insurance or the National Health Service.

In 1906, an ambitious parade, accompanied by village bands, marched from Rustington to East Preston, which was then still mainly an agricultural community where most people walked everywhere.

The village population was about 400, although another 300 people lived in East Preston workhouse as inmates and officers.

These lively parades continued up to 1913, then resumed in 1921 for a few more years, although by then the seaside development known as Angmering-on-Sea had started to alter the rural nature of the village.

Putting the cart before the horse, with the village bobby, possibly Harry Legg, at the 1906 carnival

Putting the cart before the horse, with the village bobby, possibly Harry Legg, at the 1906 carnival

Black and white pierrot costumes feature in several of the surviving photographs, though a float called “Flowers of Preston” would no doubt have provided plenty of colour.

There must have been plenty of good humour too – one photograph shows the village bobby literally “putting the cart before the horse” – though it does seem that in that era people presented serious faces to the camera even when they were having fun, for fear of looking silly.

Full details about the East Preston Festival are in the official programme, available now throughout the village, with tickets for events on sale at the festival box offices, Hedgers New Agency, 43 Sea Road, and Sea View Stores, 114 Sea Road.