With preparations underway for this weekend’s Okehampton Carnival, Mike and Hilary Wreford of the Okehampton and District Historical Society take a look back at the carnival in the 1920s

Over its long history, dating back 100 years or more, the Okehampton Carnival has featured many outstanding floats. During the 1920s and 30s, these enjoyed input from two large and skilled engineering workforces based at Westbridge in Okehampton, Devon Motor Transport (DMT) and T Day and Sons Ltd, known as Days.

Their workforces were mainly made up of servicemen who had returned from the First World War along with a number of apprentices. At carnival time, they entered into the spirit of the occasion with a sense of civic duty and pride.

In Days’ case, the staff were supported by the two directors, who not only encouraged their staff to create floats but also placed their facilities at their disposal.

They provided a coach and driver for the carnival queen at the firm’s expense as well as coaches for the town mayor and councillors.

The photograph, pictured here, shows the carnival queen’s carriage made for the 1922 procession, a motor coach which replaced the previous horse-drawn carriage.

Seeing the photograph in black and white does not do justice to the colours of the real thing. With a replica crown on the roof, it made a marvellous sight in white, pale pink and crimson. These colours were repeated on the wheels and wheel arches and the running boards were covered in green leaves. The car chosen for the occasion was an actual Ford Model T.

A particular challenge, in those days, was getting the 20 revolving lights on each wheel to work. This was resolved through a great deal of thought, ingenuity and experimentation.

As well as creating the carnival queen’s carriage, Days’ staff worked on creating a float for the 1922 carnival. Perhaps encouraged by the fact that they had two ex-matelots on their staff, they opted to create a British gun boat and their entry, pictured below, won first prize in its category at a time when the British naval fleet ruled the waves.

The other picture shows the float in the procession with those who made it on board. They are Jack Day, sitting by the gun, ex-sailor Bill Walters, company foreman Frank Horn, director Fred Day, who naturally took on the role of captain of the ship, ex-sailor Tom Cox and Horace Weaver, who took the part of rear gunner.

The replica was apparently so good that the crew was tempted to take it to Dartmouth to establish whether it was seaworthy or not but this plan did not come to fruition. We have to wonder if this tableau, with its obvious motor power, would be allowed on the road today without tax and insurance.

Okehampton has a rich history, faithfully recorded by organisations such as the Museum of Dartmoor Life, the Okehampton Community Archive Group, the Okehampton and District History Society and is in several personal archive collections.

Tomorrow (Friday) on the eve of this year’s carnival, the Okehampton Community Archive Group will be jogging people’s memories with an exhibition of historical photos and memorabilia at the Okehampton Conservative Club on Kempley Road.

The free exhibition, which also showcases the personal archive collections of Gill Lower and Hilary and Mike Wreford, takes place at 7.30pm. Admission is free. There will be many splendid pictures, with some very rare with many faces of yesteryear. Some of whom no doubt will rekindle fond memories.

Many of the town’s groups and organisations will be featured, so if you want a trip down memory lane, why not pop in, and you may be there.