According to the Wellington Weekly of 1887 “this year has witnessed the revival of the Guy Fawkes celebrations. -in fact it is stated it is 27yrs since anything like the celebrations of Friday last was witnessed in Wellington” It goes on to outline the events of Friday 4th November 1887. “Friday being an early closing evening with shopkeepers and Saturday a late one. In accordance with instructions issued by the committee, those who intended to take part in the carnival assembled near Shute Leigh to form the procession” this was recorded as the chief feature of the evening. There were Masqueraders and torch bearers, lead by the town band, as the procession passed crowds of sightseers along the route. Details of individual entries are given and the procession ended with a lighted tar barrel as was the custom at several Carnivals of the day. Other barrels were burned followed by a discharge of fireworks and cannon, fires were also lit opposite the Eight Bells and at other areas in town but in each case the “bonfire boys” ensured no damage was caused to property. The events carried on into the late hours despite the RAIN.
In 1888 the evening of 5th November was fine and the procession started from Rockwell Green (after assembling in Oaken Field), at 7pm, the band of the “Queens Own” lead the way. The procession was commanded by “the Duke of Wellington’s ghost”.
In 1889 on the evening of Tuesday 7th November “the celebration of the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot was carried out in Wellington” – “on the most extensive scale yet witnessed in the Town”. Chairman of the committee was Mr J Gill and the hon.secretary was Mr T Twose. The procession principle feature of the evening was the “capital torchlight procession” consisting of 100 torch bearers. Coloured fires were burnt along the route which highlighted the costumes of the Masqueraders. “The streets were crowded and squibing was general”. Horses and carriages were also used.
No records have yet been found for 1890- 1921, but research continues.
Although a carnival had not been held in the town for a long time, a carnival was planned for December 15th 1922 in aid of funds for the cottage hospital. It began with a shop window competition, and almost every shop in the town before the carnival were decorated to a very high standard, which made judging very difficult. The first prize went to Mr Ayliffes shop window (now the Co-Op in Fore Street); one of his windows was occupied by eight lady members of his staff dressed in Japanese dresses amidst flowering shrubs and sat down in Japanese fashion to a Japanese tea.
The carnival itself began from Wellesley Park at 7pm. The procession consisted of 250 torch bearers, 16 tableaux in Class 1, 14 comic, many decorated motors and trade turn outs, large parties on foot, 50 pedestrians in fancy dress, decorated cycles, The Wellington Town Brand were in a large char-a-banc, and a number of jazz bands on foot. Altogether, the procession was about 3/4 of a mile long.
The carnival procession passed down South Street, Fore Street, and Mantle Street; on reaching Gas Street, it turned back up Mantle Street and continued through High Street out of Wellington to Poole Crossing where it again turned back to the town centre. From there it passed down North Street, Waterloo Road and Station Road as far as Swallowfield House (now Aerosols), turned into Springfield and into the Rugby field where a huge bonfire was situated and lit followed by a firework display. The cost of the fireworks was met by Messsers C and E Walker (milk factory owners). The gate takings were £76 2.8d tickets sold previously amounted to £43.2.3d
In the evening a fancy dress ball was held in the town hall, and again the standard was high. The ladies first prize was won by Miss P Culverwell, dressed as a Persian lady, then Miss J. Marke in a black and red pierrette costume, followed by Miss Kitch as a Christmas cracker. Mr Ellis won the men’s first prize as the King of Spades, followed by Mr S Hoyles as Alchemist.
After a twenty year gap the Carnival was restarted in 1950 but there was another gap when no carnival was held between 1954-1960. From 1960 to 1970 it is believed the Town band took change of organising and running the Carnival but in the spring of 1971 admitted it was too great an undertaking for them to continue. At this time another name came into save the day as John Nash got some fellow supporters together which included Gary Cox who took charge of events and helped advise Josephine Chave in later years. Mrs Chave has been involved in Wellington Carnival for 32 years; she as acted as marshal, catering , catering assistant and entertainments officer and is now President of the Committee. .Many Of Josephine’s family help out with Carnival to date.
In 1987 the carnival route was changed to omit North Street and Longforth Road.
Although today’s carnival seems on the surface very similar to the carnival procession of yesteryear, the organisation is very different. The carnival held every September is organised by the Wellington Carnival Committee – they plan the carnival which will not only contain entrants from the town, but from other local towns who compete for cups and trophies. Each town on the circuit (South Somerset Federation consists of Wellington, Chard, Ilminster, and Taunton) has its turn playing host, and all monies made by each town is distributed to local charities and groups.