You are in [Events] [Steam Rallies]
A series of seven annual Steam Engine Rallies was held on the Common between 1970 and 1978.
- Cover of the Souvenir Programme of the first Steam Rally, 1970
- Gray's Coronation Speedway at the Steam Rally, 13 Jun 1971.
- Harry Lee's Steam Yachts at the Steam Rally, 13 Jun 1971.
The HHA also holds programmes for 1971-1973, 1977-78 (kindly donated by Barnaby Newton, Aug 2018).
Why were they held?
In 1969 the Town Hall and Corn Exchange had fallen into a poor state of repair. Money had been found to restore the frontage of the building and the Town Hall and Magistrates Room, but the Corn Exchange had some major problems. The lantern roof running the length of the Corn Exchange was in a poor state, and the gas heaters were inadequate for modern use.
Indeed, the Corn Exchange had become virtually unused. There was even the threat that it might be demolished to make way for housing to raise money for the Town and Manor, who were the owners.
Something had to be done. At a crisis meeting of the Trustees of the Town and Manor, John Newton, who had a lifelong passion for steam engines, volunteered to help arrange a Steam Engine Rally on the Common.
What were they like?
The event held on 13th and 14th June 1970 was a huge success, and it became the first of seven such rallies held over the following eight years (1970-1974 and 1977-78).
There was a very wide range of entertainments including:
- Military Bands
- Narrow gauge railway
- Punch & Judy
- Sheep shearing
- Vintage cars and motor-cycles
- Wheelwright display
- Wood carving
- Hungerford's old horse-drawn fire engine
- Fairground rides
- Donkey rides
- Free-fall parachute displays.
About 20,000 people attended each show, perhaps the largest crowd ever on the Common.
Other large events on the Common include:
- The visit of General Eisenhower in 1944 is said to have brought 18,000 people.
- The Bare Knuckle Prize Fight of December 1821 was said to have attracted 22,000 people - but there must be some doubt about this claim!
With special thanks to John Newton, and Stewart Hofgartner of "Below Stairs of Hungerford Antiques"
- Souvenir programmes 1971-1973 and 1977-78 (kindly donated by Barnaby Newton, Aug 2018) [HHA archive, Newton Collection].