Born in Frampton, Lincolnshire, in about 1823, William Bonner Hopkins, became the vicar of St. George’s Church, Littleport in 1866.
William was a great advocate of temperance and soon set about preaching the evils of alcohol. In 1869 to help discourage the working men from frequenting public houses (of which Littleport had many) he set up a working men’s club, where 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, but smoking was allowed, and alcohol was strictly forbidden.
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. […] 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.”Rev. William Bonner Hopkins, ‘Holy Scriptures: Temperance and Total Abstinence’, 1880.
The Littleport Show
It is therefore no surprise to find that he considered the annual fair at Littleport 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 it each year.
Eventually, children’s sports were added, and in 1891, having outgrown the Vicarage lawns, it moved to the Millfield Playing Field. In 1893 it moved again, this time to High Field, and a foal show was added in 1899.
Rev. Hopkins died at Littleport on 24th March 1890, aged 67. The main east window of St. George’s Church at Littleport is dedicated to his memory.
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