Pre-war Carnivals

Photographs taken from the Leamington Courier, Kenilworth Weekly News and Coventry Herald.

1928  The first carnival to have a Queen. Jean Spence, is seen, the newspaper caption says, at St Johns although it is difficult to locate the roof lines to confirm this. 1929   The Queen’s float including Queen Alice Beck is seen in School Lane where the Carnival assembled. A similar view is included in my book Kenilworth People & Places, Volume 2



1930   Queen Freda Thurley sits on her throne atop a pile of beer crates, as did all the early Queens. The horse-drawn float always had a jester at the front left – he operated the brake when the float was going downhill, such as in Priory Road and Rosemary Hill. 1931   Jean Mills on her tour of the town. The Queen always faced forward on the float, a tradition sadly lost.


A splendid photograph of the 1931 Carnival, with Jean Mills as Queen.  The Ford had not yet been piped so water was more or less always present. To the left can be seen some of the Carnival’s ‘walkers’, preferring to use the bridge than walk through the ford! Amongst them are Fire Brigade members, always popular with their buckets for collecting coins.



A float from the 1933 carnival



Queen Joan King photographed with her entourage soon after the choosing ceremony in May


The coronation carried out just prior to the procession by Anthony Eden


Carnival week events normally started with a Carnival Committee v KUDC cricket match. Here Committee Chairman George Tisdale takes strike at the Warwick Road Ground now of Kenilworth Cricket Club.

1935    Joan Hurst soon after she was chosen as Queen. The gentleman is J W Naylor, the Chairman of the Carnival Committee. 1935   The route required a difficult left turn from Upper Rosemary Hill into Priory Road, as this photograph of the Queen’s float shows. No longer horse-drawn, the Queen travels backwards. There are crowds on the bank of The Abbey Fields.



1936  Joyce Mills, the sister of 1931 Queen Jean, poses with her entourage after the choosing ceremony. This particular year it was decided to be a ‘children’s’ Carnival; Joyce was 15, the youngest ever, and the even younger age of her Maids in Waiting is apparent. The group is seen in their precarious position on the float as the driver negotiates the difficult left turn outside the Abbey Hotel. 




The annual Carnival Committee v KUDC match started the week once more, J W Naylor Committee Chairman tosses whilst KUDC Chairman W Bostock calls. The match was again at the Warwick Road ground; the score-hut was in the far corner diagonally opposite today’s modern scoreboard. 


A fabulous photograph of Queen Esther Joan Simpson on her float. The Coronation was now carried out at Castle Green shortly before the procession got underway.


1938   Queen Mary Mansell and her attendants at the choosing ceremony (left) and on Carnival day. Mary’s Parents were caretakers of the Parochial Hall; Mary’s war-time experiences of Coventry evacuees using the hall, notably during the Coventry Blitz, are included in my book World War 2 Comes to Kenilworth

The Carnival Baby Show of 1938, held at the Parochial Hall. Chairman of the Ladies Organising Committee was Carnival Queen Mary Mansell’s mother who the caption records is ‘on the right’, likely to be the older lady with glasses. It is noticeable how few of those in the photograph, children and adults, seem to be enjoying themselves; the caption writer remarked the children are, ‘puzzled, scornful, or openly hostile’.


1939 Queen Peggy Constable and her attendants, thought to be on Carnival Day shortly before her Coronation.


1940   Despite the country being at war, a Carnival Queen was chosen at the end of May 1940. She was Rosalind Booden. It was still the time of ‘the phoney war’ as it was known, and it was hoped to hold a Carnival procession of sorts on Saturday 29th June. During the few days prior to that date, bombs fell locally for the first time, in Coventry; on the 28th the decision was made to not hold a carnival…………


….however in August the coronation took place and a Ball was held at the Abbey Hotel, but no procession. Rosalind was to be the the Carnival Queen without a carnival.


Two photographs taken at the Ball; that on left includes Dr and Mrs Smalley, and George Tisdale. Sitting on Rosalind’s left is outgoing Queen Peggy Constable.


The origins and complete history of the carnival up to 1951 is included in,  Kenilworth People & Places, Volume 2


More Kenilworth Carnival articles on this website:

Origins of Kenilworth Carnival, and its post-war revival, Patsy Wheeler

Kenilworth’s ‘Lost’ Wartime Carnivals

Kenilworth’s Forgotten Carnival Queen

Carnival Queens

Carnival Programmes 1936 – 1975

Carnival posters and tickets, 1962 -1967

How many carnivals has there been?

Kenilworth Carnival on film