Friday, 1 June 2012

Reading between the lines



As several Lydian Airs habitués live in the Reading area, I thought they might like to be reminded of the following gem in the tiara of their local heritage.

In 1851 there was a race between two travelling fairs, Hilton's and Wombwell's, to be first to set up, and thus disadvantage the other, at Henley Fair. Not far from Reading, on the Oxford road, Hilton's convoy tried to overtake Wombwell's.

A serious affray broke out, triggered by one of Hilton's drivers knocking one of Wombwell's drivers off his perch with a tent pole. This led to a mortal duel between Hilton's Fat Man and Wombwell's Living Skeleton, whose weapons were hardly matched: the Fat Man laid about him with a wrought-iron door hook, the Living Skeleton swung hard with a sledgehammer. In the ensuing general mêlée, the horses drawing the various waggons bolted, in the course of which both Hilton's and Wombwell's elephants escaped.

The seriously injured were treated in Reading Hospital, while the elephants were eventually rounded up from places as far apart as Tidmarsh and Tutt's Clump.

If The India-Rubber man smashed Mme Astragala's crystal ball (presumably she didn't see it coming) over her head and The Daring Young Man On The Flying Trapeze ripped the Bearded Lady's stock-in-trade off as he swung past, the history books, and 'Lord' George Sanger's Seventy Years A Showman (from which this story comes), have unaccountably omitted to mention it.

11 comments:

Vicus Scurra said...

I am so pleased I do not live in that county.

Rog said...

I don't believe this. You must have made up "Tutt's Clump" and Mrs Astra-Lager.
I'd also like to know how the word "Fair" was ever associated with such skullduggery.

Christopher said...

You cut it fairly close, though, don't you, Vicus?

Rog: I think the Tutt's Clumpers may have something to say about this. They know where you live.

mig bardsley said...

Currently, there is a llama and ostrich farm at Tutts Clump but elephants would have been a real shock.
Can't help thinking that the fat man and the living skeleton were wielding the wrong weapons.

Christopher said...

Very glad to hear from you, Mig. Rog will be reassured.

dinahmow said...

Can't help but think that an elephant up Tutt's Clump must be excruciatingly painful.

Mike and Ann said...

What fascinating scraps of history you come up with Christopher. I'm very surprised that no one has made a film about this affair. In fact I wonder if you just made the whole thing up with a view to selling the idea to a film company?

Martin said...

Mike and Ann are right. This has screenplay written all over it, when it should obviously be the other way around.

I remember driving through Bodmin, early one morning, and witnessing an elephant being walked in a local park.

Tim said...

I once saw a wallaby not far fvrom Tutt's Clump.
Those Fairs were precursors of present-day driving style in these parts, by the sound of it. Remind me to tell you about the Inner Distribution Road sometime.

Anonymous said...

'Tutt's Clump' is, apparently, a village in Berkshire. I've just looked it up on and/or in Wikipedia which is an online encyclopedia of 'stuff' that may be inputted and/or edited by 'membership' as to authenticity or egoism upon any library-subject, item or thing of any date. My ego suggests Tutt's Clump, Like Chinese whispers, could (correctly) be "Clutt's Tump" being a hillock or mount surmounted by an ancient group of trees from which said elephants were rescued. Such ancient clumps or tumps tend to be of beech (leaves and nuts) most tasty to mammals and the possible site of fairies, witchery, ancient burials and meeting place for latter lager, cannabis and other arcane partakers.

Tim said...

Just been doing a bit of nostalgic historical research. I miss your blog - are you ever going to come back, Chris? Send me an email if you want. T