On 21st June 1919 a Welcome Home Gala Day was held at Elmdon Park by cycling clubs from across Birmingham and Coventry. Organised by the Cyclists’ Touring Club, the National Cyclists’ Union and the Midland Cyclists’ Association, the event was to welcome home those with a cycling connection who had served in the war.
Some of the cost was paid for by the surplus amount subscribed for sending parcels to prisoners of war. A “Welcome Home Fund for Sailor and Soldier Cyclists” was also formed, raising £535.
The Coventry Evening Telegraph of Monday 23th June 1919 reported that the sum:
enabled the committee to provide 600 soldiers, sailors, W.R.A.F.’s, V.A.D.’s, who were associated with cycling before enlistment, to participate in six hours of real merriment at Elmdon Park on Saturday. Coventry sent 360 guests and Birmingham about 240, and with the ordinary visitors the attendance in the beautiful grounds, which had been kindly lent by Mrs West, numbered close upon two thousand in the evening.
Those from Birmingham assembled at Yardley at 2pm, whilst the Coventry contingent met at Greyfriars Green at 1pm, to the accompaniment of the Vauxhall Band. The group must have provided quite a sight as transport included vehicles such as sidecars, works’ lorries and a hearse! A good number cycled as well, although they reportedly found the 10-mile ride anything but easy against a prevailing high wind.
On arrival at Elmdon Park, the vehicles were parked just off the main drive and visitors were then free to enjoy the entertainments provided until the carnival closed soon after 8.30pm. The Boy Scouts, who had been approached to help with the organisation, pitched camp at Elmdon on Friday evening and stayed behind to help clear the site after Saturday’s events.
Entertainment included an Old English Fair, sports, boxing (including “interesting spars” by Boy Scouts with “much energy and skill”), performances by the Vauxhall and BSA bands and concerts. The newspaper reported that everything passed of without a hitch and that even the weather ended up being glorious, despite an unpromising outlook and slight fall of rain at 1pm.
Elmdon Park, according to the newspaper, was little known to Coventry people, so a description was given of its natural beauty:
Situated about two miles beyond Stonebridge, Elmdon Hall is surrounded by beautiful, undulating, well-wooded country and is well back from the main road. The portion of the park used for Saturday’s fete was directly in front of the hall, and on the south-west side a well-wooded valley with an expanse of water was overlooked. Mrs West has a magnificent old-world garden, and this, with its wealth of bloom, was generally admired.
If you have any further information about the Welcome Home Gala Day, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian