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.