Guest post by the Museum of London

Visiting the Past: Easter Fun on Hampstead Heath

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A hundred years ago, Easter for many Londoners meant the thrills of the fun fair on Hampstead Heath.

The open expanse of the Heath had always attracted travelling showmen but in the 19th century the event became a fully-fledged fun fair, with donkey rides, ice-cream sellers, roundabouts, side shows and coconut shies.

The fair grew in size: ordinary Londoners seized the chance to scream on the helter skelter, try their luck on the hoop-la and munch candy floss.

Arthur Watts, drawing of Londoners having fun at Hampstead Heath's Easter Fun Fair, 1933 By 1910 the crowds on Easter Monday numbered over 200,000 people. In 1920, royalty paid a visit when Queen Alexandra drove past to view the Easter Monday festivities.

Hampstead’s Easter fun fair continued during and after the Second World War. By the 1950s the rides had become larger and noisier with American-style dodgem cars and a big wheel, but old-fashioned merry-go-rounds and hurdy-gurdy men kept a bit of Victorian character.

There were booths selling silly hats to wear, or the chance to be photographed with a live parrot on your shoulder, and it was always incredibly crowded. This was where Londoners let their hair down.

Museum of LondonGuest post by the Museum of London as part of our Visiting the Past series. More London history next week