Yesterday morning was spent at the City Archives in Stoke-on-Trent Central library doing some research on the history of the Hanley Park. The archive system itself is fascinating. The database from which you search for your required information is a chest of long thin alphabetised wooden drawers, each full of cards of paper that you flick through to find the reference of the book/cutting/microfilm/map/pamphlet that you want. You fill out a paper slip with the relevant details, and then give it to staff member who then brings you the corresponding article.
One of the articles I wanted to look at was from the Staffordshire Advertiser about a two day Horticultural Fete in Hanley park in 1897. The article was on a microfilm to be viewed on this reader...
The Hanley Park Horticultural Fete in July, 1897 sounds like a dreamland. Four large tents housed flower and vegetables displays and competitions including: orchids, hydrangeas, begonias, caladiums, ferns, lillies, roses, geraniums, bamboos, carnations, palms, cacti, gloxinias, table decoration displays and cut flowers including sweet peas, stocks, sweetwilliams, gallardias, strawberries, cherries, nectarines, melons, delphiniums, bees, honey, grapes, greenhouse plants, caladiums, fuchsias, pansies, gloxinias, carrots, potatoes, french beans, cucumbers, peas, cauliflowers, spring onions, onions, tomatoes, hanging baskets, bouquets and button holes.
There were luncheons, children's competitions (for which so many prizes had been donated that almost everyone received a prize), practical lectures on bee keeping, pottery demonstrations, pipers, the Hanley Town Band, dancing on the tennis lawn, carousels, acrobats and high wire performers who rode a bicycle along a wire 50ft off the ground. A Mrs Maude Brooks went up in a hot air balloon and parachuted down a few miles away.
"In the evening the grounds were illuminated with many thousand coloured lights and lanterns, and the effect was very pretty, particularly in the lower part of the neighbourhood of the lake. When it was dark, Messrs. Pain and Sons of Liverpool and London commenced a grand display of fireworks, which lasted for nearly tow hours. "
20,000 people were in the park on the first day, and almost as many on the second.
Imagine this happening today? It's easy go get lost in reading about magical days such as this in the park, but I don't want to lose sight of what's actually going on today. Looking at the past and days such as this, however, can provide great inspiration for things that could happen in the future.