It was a grand day, the whole village turned out – they were in a mood to party. Bunting and flags were spread across Bishopthorpe’s Main Street, trestle tables were piled high with food, and a place was found for Mrs. Walter Paver’s special “Peace” cake which reached three tiers high. Children and adults dressed in a colourful array of fancy dress costumes portraying Charlie Chaplin, Irish colleens, admirals, nurses and soldiers. This last was a reminder that the war remained fresh in the mind for many.
Hostilities in the terrible 1914-1918 war had ceased at the Armistice on 11 November 1918 but, officially, the war did not end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June the following year. To mark the end of the war the government decided that Peace should be celebrated nationally with a public holiday on 19th July 1919. On that day thousands of people gathered in London and watched 15,000 allied troops take part in a victory parade.
London was not the only city to rejoice. In York a water carnival was organised with events taking place all day. The press reported that “animated scenes were witnessed on the river”. Animated indeed as hundreds watched displays and swimming contests taking place between Lendal and Scarborough Bridges. This was followed by a water polo match and great excitement was caused by high diving performances from a parapet on Lendal Bridge. The Minster bells pealed for an hour at noon and again in the evening; shops, businesses and the Mansion House were gaily decorated, flowers were used in abundance. Parades marched through the streets and bands played on the Knavesmire and river-side walks.
A peace festival for York children was postponed until the summer holiday in August. Likewise, many villages and towns held their own peace celebrations during that month. Bishopthorpe schoolchildren were granted an extra week’s holiday and therefore the village’s own peace celebration was held on Tuesday, 19th August. The children enjoyed their tea sitting at tables set on the highway outside The Ebor Inn. Each child was presented with a specially decorated Peace mug, a bag of sweets and nuts and a slice of Mrs. Paver’s cake.
This was not only a jamboree for the children. At six o’ clock about 200 adults sat down to a “sumptuous repast”. As well as the fancy dress competition, numerous races were held including “Cockerel” races for married men, married women and children. Later in the evening Rex Johnson, who had won the slow bicycle race, revived in time to play piano for the dancing. The party concluded with a good display of fireworks.
To mark the centenary of this unique episode in Bishopthorpe’s story, a small collection of photographs will be displayed at Bishopthorpe Library throughout July and August.
Please call in and see how the villagers celebrated their well-deserved Peace.
Bishopthorpe Community Archive