Northampton Carnival Parade has a long history. It began in 1890 as the ‘Bicyclists’ Parade’, which in turn was derived from the ‘High Hat Run’, organised by Rover Cyclists Club, in which all the entrants wore a top hat, hence the name. One of the highlights of the ‘High Hat Run’ was a leg of mutton dinner at the Red House in St. James. The last ‘High Hat Run’ was in 1887.
1890 saw a ‘monster procession’, as well as the ‘bicyclists’ parade’, which was attended by 20,000 people and six bands, including the Regent Square Drum and Fife Band, and St. Paul’s Brass Band. The parade visited various areas of the town and ended in Franklin’s Gardens.
The Bicyclists’ Parade became the Cycle Parade in 1901 and as the title suggests, bicycles were the principal means of transport. Children and adults were allowed to enter competitions for the most spectacular and extravagant costumes. In 1897 the prize for the adult category was 25s.
Cycles were popular in the parade up until the 1970s, but were gradually being replaced by motorised transport in the form of cars and lorries from the 1950s onwards. By the 1960s the Carnival Parade was firmly established as part of Northampton’s leisure with thousands of participants and spectators coming from the town and from further afield to witness the fantastic costumes and floats. Various groups took part in the Carnival Parade, including individuals, youth clubs, companies and charities. The competition included such categories as ‘Fancy Dress Get-up on Cycle-Juvenile’, Motor Car-Any Age-Any-Type-Decorated’ and ‘Traders’ Decorated Advertisement Get-up or Otherwise’, these traders had to come from Northampton or the county. Subjects of the costumes worn by the entrants were varied, often reflecting ‘Miss Drinka Pinta Milka Day’, which was taken from a very successful advertising campaign of the late 1950s.
The Northampton Carnival has had strong traditions in the town from the 1960s through the Midsummer Meadow times in the 1980s, to its short break in the late 1990s.
In the 1970s and early 1980s the carnival parade took place during the week and started in the evening after tea time but was afterwards switched to Sunday afternoons.
The Carnival continued until 1996 when it ended due to lack of funding. However in 2005 a small group of people in the community decided to restart the Northampton Carnival, which had ceased in 1996. The tradition was revived, the theme of the carnival when it returned in 2005 was ‘Celebrate Masquerade’.
Since then the event has grown and developed significantly and is attended by large numbers of people from the town and beyond. The new Northampton Carnival truly displays the spirit of carnival with similarities to some of the more established carnivals in the UK such as Luton, Leicester and even Notting Hill. In 2012 Northampton Carnival were awarded the prestigious Inspire Mark by the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Carnival is an event for the entire family to enjoy and it has been successful in bringing colour, amazing costumes, music and celebration to Northampton Town. The major aim of the organisers is “to bring together the communities in the town to unite, to celebrate and party, to show each community’s traditions and cultures”.
Information courtesy of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
Dates of Northampton Carnival
1936 – Saturday 11th of July
1937 – Saturday 10th of July
1938 – Saturday 9th of July
1947 – Thursday 26th of June
1948 – Thursday 24th of June
1952 – Thursday 19th of June
1953 – Thursday 18th of June
1954 – Thursday 17th of June
1955 – Thursday 16th of June
1956 – Thursday 21st of June
1957 – Thursday 20th of June
1958 – Thursday 19th of June
1959 – Thursday 18th of June
1960 –Thursday 16th of June
1961 – Thursday 15th of June
1962 – Thursday 21st of June
1963 – Thursday 20th of June
1964 – Thursday 18th of June
1965 – Thursday 17th of June
1966 – Thursday 16th of June
1967 – Thursday 15th of June
1968 – Thursday 20th of June
1969 – Thursday 19th of June
1970 – Thursday 25th of June
1971 – Thursday 17th of June
1972 – Thursday 15th of June
1973 – Thursday 21st of June
1974 – Thursday 20th of June
1975 – Thursday 19th of June
1976 – Thursday 17th of June
1977 – Thursday 16th of June
1978 – Thursday 22nd of June
1979 – Thursday 21st of June
1980 – Thursday 19th of June
1981 – Thursday 18th of June
1982 – Thursday 17th of June
1983 – Thursday 16th of June
1984 – Thursday 15th of June
1990 – Sunday 17th of June
1992 – Sunday 21st of June
1993 – Sunday 20th of June
1997 – NO CARNIVAL
1998 – NO CARNIVAL
1999 – NO CARNIVAL
2000 – NO CARNIVAL
2001 – NO CARNIVAL
2002 – NO CARNIVAL
2003 – NO CARNIVAL
2004 – NO CARNIVAL
2005 – Saturday 11th of June
2006 – Saturday 17th of June
2007 – Saturday 16th of June
2008 – Saturday 14th of June
2009 – Saturday 13th of June
2010 – Saturday 12th of June
2011 – Saturday 11th of June
2012 – Saturday 14th of July
Records held by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. This collection includes; programmes, photographs, procession routes, prize giving and competitions, crowns, flags, bicycles.
Beryl Burman and her husband Alan took part in Northampton Carnival for many years after moving to Northampton in 1955. Alan became interested in carnival as he was part of the Abington Photographic...
Photographs of Northampton Carnival taken by the newspaper Northampton Chronicle and Echo.
Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium was set up by Morcea Walker and Myrle Roach to organise the Northampton Carnival. In this collection is: Northampton Carnival Programmes 2005-2012 Programmes for...
Photographs from Hardingstone carnival in 1960, donated by Diane Berry.
Photographs of Ray Heitzman's daughter Lydia in costume ready for the Northampton Carnival c 1950. There is also a postcard showing a photograph of Ray's uncle Bill Bird at the Northampton...
Photographs of Sylvia McDonnell's mother, father and grandfather in costume for Northampton Carnival. Sylvia's grandfather was called John Barnes and was the father of Dorothy Barnes....
Photographs collected by Trevor Noodles of carnivals around Northamptonshire. Carnivals include Kettering, Rushden and Raunds. Trevor Noodles was a member of St. Neots Carnival Association during...
Photographs of the Sikh Community Centre and Youth Club at Northampton Carnival between 2009-2011. To find out more about the group please visit their...
A collection of photographs of Glenda Tomlinson (née Glenda Martin) in costumes made by her mother Hilda Martin.
Morcea is the Lead Organiser for Northampton Carnival. She is also a retired teacher and Equality Advisor for Northamptonshire County Council. She is a member of Welfare Rights, her...
Photographs of The Higginson Troupe at Northampton Carnival 1946-1971.
Northampton Carnival Programmes 1945-1957.
Newspaper articles 1943-1977.
Sue Darby (née Austin) was Queen of Northampton Carnival in 1962. Her fiance at the time entered her into the competition without her knowledge and the first she knew about it was when she...
The Carnival Archive Project Northampton works in association with the Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium. Please ses their website for more information about Northampton...
Ann Martin (née Ann Denton) entered Northampton Carnival for several years. her costumes were made by her father Fred Denton with help from her monther Connie Denton (née Connie Gill)....
Photographs from Northampton Carnival 1911-1974.
Programmes from Northampton Carnival 1953-1964.
Newspaper articles about Northampton Carnival.
Photographs from Northampton Carnival in 2005. 2005 was the year Northampton Carnival returned after a decade of not being held.
Photographs and newspaper articles relating to the Northampton Carnival that are held in the Northampton general Hospital Archives. For more information about the hospital and their archive please...
Northampton Carnival programmes 1937, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1979.
Cart and Van Horse Parade 1927.
Photographs of Northampton c.1920-1930