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History of the Carnival by Peter Kilpatrick

The village was originally called Tamerton. The original Warleigh House was built sometime between 1135 and 1154 by Sampson FOLIOT, whose manor of Tamerton for evermore became known as Tamerton Foliot.

The piece by Edward Lysons in his ‘Magna Britannia states – ‘A market at this place (Tamerton Foliot) on Monday, and a fair for three days at the festival of St. Dennis, was in a Royal Charter granted to the Lord of the Manor, (the FOLIOT family) in the year 1269 by King Henry III.  There is now a cattle-fair on the third Wednesday in July’. The dates of the three day fair would have been around the feast of St Dennis which is 9th October.

The National Archive held in Kew Gardens has been searched and revealed some more detail. In 1298 Tamerton Foliot is recorded as a borough. A term (from the Old English burh) used to denote a place with urban characteristics and therefore likely to contain commercial institutions, including a market. There are four Royal Charters granted, which are detailed below.

Granted byDateGranted toFeast ofFeast DateMarket/Fair
King Henry III14/07/1270Ralph de GORGES  Market
King Henry III14/07/1270Ralph de GORGESSt Dennis9th OctoberFair
King Edward I10/06/1292William de GORGES  Market
King Edward I10/06/1292William de GORGESAssumption15th AugustFair

The GORGES family lived in Warleigh House from 1253 until 1435 were granted the four Royal Charters detailed above. The current house was rebuilt in 1600’s.


Residents of the village have explained that a May Carnival has taken place in the village going back to the early 1900’s. From living memory of villagers the Carnival has run virtually every year since 1946 using various village venues. During the war years it did not always run.

1947 Carnival

The Carnival has always been held in Wadlands Meadow since sometime in the 1980s. The meadow was given to the people of the village as an ‘open space’ by Major Radcliffe. Prior to this it was held in various venues around the village including the current Mary Dean’s school site, where the present school was opened in 1976.  The event, for many years, has been traditionally held on the first Saturday in May.

May Queen Choosing

In February on the Saturday closest to St Valentine’s Day the May Queen choosing takes place for two flower girls, the May Princess and the May Queen. They are chosen from local girls who either live in the village or attend Mary Dean’s School. The chosen girls are provided with new dresses each year. After the other events which they attend such as the Carnival Service and the Strawberry Fair they keep the dresses.

1979 Festival Queen – click for more

Carnival Day

The Carnival commences with a line up of both walking and when possible motorised floats at the top of the village in Cunningham Road. These are judged by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. A procession, led by a band, walks through the village to Wadlands Meadow. This takes about 30 minutes and we ask the Mayoral party to consider walking, dependent on the weather. Any group can enter the procession free of charge. There is a theme set each year.

Once at the Meadow the Lord Mayor declares the Carnival open and a presentation of an engraved shield is made by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress to the May Queen. The May Queen presents a gift to thank the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress for attending and afterwards the Mayoral party have the opportunity to walk around the field and visit stalls of their choice followed by afternoon tea. The Mayoral party leave the carnival at their own time and discretion depending on other commitments. The presence of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress at the carnival provides an opportunity for members of the village to meet them.

Usually a band leads the procession
A chance to meet the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress who open the Carnival
The duck race is a favourite


The carnival is an event organised by volunteers. It is a community event with preference being given to village groups for a lot of the events and stalls. Outside attractions are also needed to cater for all ages but all the refreshment stalls are village or committee run with the exception of the ice cream vans.  Other persons and groups may apply to have a pitch on the field but we do exercise discretion regarding purpose of the stall and taking into consideration health and safety issues.

About 60 stalls of varying sizes can be accommodated. On carnival day setting up begins from 06.30am and breakfast is available in the hall from about 08.00am till 10.30am. The carnival receives no outside funding and is reliant on the income from the carnival to enable the event to run. An AGM is normally held in July and all posts are open to anyone who wishes to be elected. New committee members who wish to assist can be co-opted at an ordinary meeting. Stall booking forms are available from January each year and contain prices, conditions (as required by Plymouth CC) and other information about the event. These can also be requested through the Carnival e-mail address to which all the committee have access. The carnival committee also arrange other events throughout the year.

Family Service

On the Sunday following the carnival there is a Service in St Mary’s Church which is a family service with participation by the May Queen and perhaps one of her attendants. The service is arranged by the Vicar.