Aunt Sallys and Cocoanuts

A report of the Clevedon Local Board of Health from 1885 contains an intriguing debate about whether Clevedon Beach should be used for entertainments such as Aunt Sally – an arrangement of canvas and the head of a woman and a supply of cocoanuts to throw at her head.

Aunt Sally Illustration: Wikipedia

Right from the outset of the debate the Chairman of the Health Board made it clear that he (Sir E H Elton) owned that part of the foreshore and it wasn’t something for the Board to debate or decide. Nonetheless, a solid debate ensued. Some thought throwing cocoanuts encouraged rowdyism, others that it was akin to gambling in a public street. Again, the Chairman stated that no one could be trading on the beach without his permission. But the debate went on. One said, they didn’t want to ‘snobbify’ the beach and another that nothing should be allowed on the beach that would be offensive to the residents of Clevedon. The newspaper article, below, has been transcribed to enable the reader to follow the ebb and flow of the debate which, as the article reports ended, when ‘the subject was then dropped.’

Image: British Newspaper Archive


Mr Ransford drew attention to the fact that a large space on the beach was occupied by the canvas and stock in trade of a gentleman who kept cocoanuts (sic), which, in consideration of the payment of a certain bronze coin of the realm, the public were allowed to throw at.  Their beach was sufficiently limited n extent without anything of this sort to make it smaller.  The CHAIRMAN (Sir E H Elton) did not consider this a matter for the board, as this part of the foreshore referred to by Mr Ransford was his (the chairman’s) property.  He did not see anything objectionable in throwing at a few cocoanuts.  Mr Sheldon pointed out that it amounted to gambling in the public streets.  Mr Maynard remarked tht it was six to one against the thrower knowing off a cocoanut.  Re. J. Hoarce considered that this sort of thing lowered the tone of the town and encouraged rowdyism.  He had been advised by a solicitor tht a strip of beach between low and high water mark was under the jurisdiction of the board.  If one person was allowed to do the things complained of by Mr Ransford, others might follow in their footsteps, until the beach was covered with booths and cocoanut stands.  The Chairman said no one could be there without his permission.  Mr Griffin did not think it desirable that the beach should be used fo such purposes.  Rev J S Neumann said they did not want to curtail the beach with “Aunt Sallys” and that sort of thing.  They did not want, if might be allowed to coin a word, to “snobbify” the beach.  Rev J Horne remarked that a refreshment housekeeper had said he thought it was hard lines that he should have to pay rates, while others could set up a booth for the sale of eatables on the beach.  Rev. J.S.Neumann observed that a unanimous opinion had been expressed by the board against the beach being curtailed and lowered, and he felt sure the Sir E H Elton would consider this, and would not allow anything to exist on the beach offensive to residents in Clevedon.  The subject then dropped. 

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