How Wymondham celebrated the Festival of Britain in 1951

People dance in a circle, watched by a large crowd of people.

A display of country dancing by the pupils of Browick Road School attracted a large crowds. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

It was a time to celebrate across the city, the towns and villages…this was Norfolk at play. From pageants to parties. This was the Festival of Britain.

Thank you for your memories and photographs of the summer of 1951 and today our festival bus has arrived in Wymondham where thousands of men and women, boys and girls were involved in a host of events.

Women dance in a circle, watched by a large crowd of people.

A display of country dancing by the pupils of Browick Road School attracted a large crowds in Wymondham town centre. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

These lovely old photographs and memories come from Wymondham historian and author Philip Yaxley. They illustrate just some of the happenings during Festival Week starting with a peal of the Wymondham Abbey church bells and a parade, ending with a grand fete and dance at Spooner Row.

The festival activities were well planned, aimed at bringing the people together as they looked forward to a prosperous and peaceful future… and they certainly succeeded in doing just that.

Small groups of people sit at

All dressed up for a Festival whist drive. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

A group of young women wearing 1950s sports wear exercise.

A display by the Doric Health Movement at the Secondary Modern School. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

And our talented musicians in the wonderful brass bands across the county were rushed off their feet heading off to play at one event after another… often at the front of processions through the Norfolk streets.

At Wymondham it was the Cawston & District Silver Band which led a fancy dress parade through the town and the winner was Jean Spink with an entry called, what else, “Festival.”

Two women dressed like Victorians talk to some girls wearing hats.

The “Old English Market” ladies have a word with the dancers. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

A group of young women pose for a photo.

Members of the Doric Health Movement who put on a festival display. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The 6th annual sports day since the war attracted entries from across Norfolk and there was a wonderful novelty race on vintage bicycles provided by our very own “artful” Dodger…. what a wonderful family the Kerrison’s were and famous across the world. Such great characters.

A large crowd of people take part in a bicycle race

Now that’s what you call a bicycle race! Dear old Dodger putting on a show at the festival celebrations in Wymondham. - Credit: Family collection

And who remembers the days when whist drives were so popular? There was a big turnout for the Festival Week drive held on Jimmy Underwood’s lawn in Middleton Street.

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Among the most popular events was the cycle speedway best pairs competition organised by the Wymondham Cobras at their Strayground Track won by B Platford and Ted Eaglen of Hethersett Hornets.

Men on bikes race around the speedway track. Fans sit and watch from the banks.

It cost 3d to get in to watch the festival cycle speedway best pairs competition. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Cycle speedway best pairs competition programme

Cycle speedway best pairs competition programme - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

And there was a big turnout at King’s Head Meadow for a special cricket match between a town XI and a Norwich City Football Club team… and those Canaries featuring the likes of Ron Ashman and Ken Nethercott won.

Men in cricket whites pose for a picture

The Norwich City FC cricket team which took on Wymondham…and beat them. Sitting on the grass are Canary legends Ron Ashman and Ken Nethercott. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

The Priory Gardens in Middleton Street, a peaceful oasis in the middle of town, were officially opened and a sapling planted. Today the gardens and the tree, which grew from the sapling, are the only reminders of Festival Week 70 years ago.

With thanks to Philip Yaxley.

Festival of Britain 1951 Wymondham programme of events.

The programme of events in Wymondham. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection

Festival of Britain Ale advert

Cheers S&P – a special brew to mark the Festival of Britain 70 years. - Credit: Philip Yaxley Collection