We interviewed Mary Weighton at her home in Cottingham last April. She had kindly offered to let us see some very interesting handbills which had been produced by her Grandfather. These are reproduced on the left of this page and they reflect the importance and size of Hull Fair at the turn of the last century when an important caterer could charge one shilling for a meal and seat up to one thousand people at the fair.
I know that you have got some stories to tell me about the fair and I don’t know any of them, so you start where you want.
I’m Mary Weighton, and I was Mary Marshall when you’d be talking about the fair. My Grandfather was a caterer and always catered for meals down Walton Street fair. It was a Yeomanry centre so he used to hire the place and serve meals and this is a card here from H Marshall, the universal caterer. His advert was ‘Nulli Secundus’ - Second to None.
You told me that you’ve just had your 96th birthday, so you were born in 1908. So did you go to the fair when your grandfather’s stall was there?
Yes, I did. And the really cheap meals, I think it’s written on isn’t it? He was supposed to be very good at advertising. I remember he was about the first in Hull to have electricity – he must have switched on – and the children used to stand outside and sing
Marshall’s In - Marshall’s Out - Marshall’s Upstairs Drinking Stout
Marshall's Out - Marshall’s In - Marshall’s Upstairs Drinking Gin
What was your grandfathers first name?
Horatio. Second to none.
And how long did he carry on having the stall at the fair?
When I used to go myself I was about 16 he was still there.
Did you used to help him on the stall.
No never. No he didn’t ask, he had staff. It was it was one of the biggest caterers in Hull. He used to cater for the Allen and Wilson line, at Tranby Croft.
He used to sell Brandy Snap, he used to sell a lot at Hull Fair definitely, it was rolled or however you wanted it and I remember seeing them making it. I can remember the great long wooden things, he used to put it on to curve it. His place was in Portland street Hull.
What do you remember about the fair – did you go to the fair ?
Yes always, I used to go with my friends, and we’d all meet up and go down Walton street with all the stalls and on the left hand side from Springbank was where they used to hire the private houses, front rooms for telling fortunes.
Did you go and have your fortune told
I wonder what they would have said?
You’ll not live to 96!
That’s right they would never have guessed would they.
There was a lot of them and then we’d all chum up and go down the stalls and go into the entrance and I think I can remember one year they let them use confetti – and then it was supposed to be dangerous. I remember going to the stalls, the cake walk was an attraction and we all went round the fair with a hand on the person in fronts shoulder. Oh yes it used to be crowded – and we’d sometimes go on the roundabouts or go to the side shows, there would be biggest person in the world. I’ll tell you what I did like though, the mirrors, when it altered your shape of you and of course the cakewalk was always an attraction.
The meals must have been quite special - a shilling was a lot of money then.
Especially when I started work my wages were four and five pence halfpenny. Three halfpence an hour! That was an apprenticeship. Dressmaking and dress designing. I was in charge of a work room in the end, Thornton Varleys a very famous shop in the centre of Hull, Debenhams have it now.
Thank you Mary for sharing your memories with the project and thanks to your daughter Jean and son-in-law John as well. It's good to know that this little bit of your family history has found a home with the project.