Tuesday 24 October 2017

TEMPERANCE AND THE LITTLEPORT SHOW

The Rev. William Bonner Hopkins, become vicar of Littleport in 1866. He was a great advocate of temperance and set about preaching the evils of alcohol. In 1869 to help discourage the working men from frequenting public houses he set up a working men's club, were they could pursue less sinful leisure pursuits. The club provided books, games and the occasional lecture. Playing cards, however, were prohibited, as Hopkins believed they would lead to gambling. Smoking was allowed, but alcohol was strictly forbidden.HopkinsWB

In 1873 Hopkins published a sermon entitled “The Spirit of drunkenness cast out by the Spirit of the Lord” and in 1877 he established a Temperance Society in Littleport.

He was appointed chairman of the Diocesan Committee on Temperance in 1880, and in that year he wrote his most famous work entitled HOLY SCRIPTURES: TEMPERANCE AND TOTAL ABSTINENCE.

In this book he wrote “If anyone abstains altogether from the use of intoxicating drinks, he may be very far indeed from being temperate in the use of other things. He may have no real control over his appetites. Gluttony is as much a sin against temperance as drunkenness. He goes on “The whole field of eating, as well as drinking, of amusement, recreation, business, pleasure, politics, literature, science, art, will be found the need of the grace of temperance and self control.

It is therefore no surprise to find that he considered the annual fair to be a NOISY, BOISTEROUS, DRUNKEN AFFAIR and was therefore determined to attract people away from what he believed would lead them into “danger, excess and sin.”

To achieve this, in 1882 he held a horticultural show in the old Vicarage grounds. Prizes were offered for the best show of flowers, fruit, vegetables, poultry, ducks, pigeons and rabbits. The show was a great success, and it was decided to make it an annual event, and a Horticultural and Poultry Society was created to raise funds and organise the event. Eventually children's sports were added, and in 1891, having outgrown the Vicarage lawns, it moved to the Millfield Playing Field, and in 1893 it moved to High Field, a foal show being added in 1899. Thus began the Littleport Show, which survived in one form or another until its final extinction in 2013.