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The Family Graves of Charles Cain. Proprietors of the Deptford Show Ground, the last Permanent showground in London

Charles and Hannah Cain in 1909 with sons Fred, Tom, Dave and Charles Junior (back row) and daughters  Hannah, Daisy, Florence and Carolyn. (Copyright: Bell family archive)

The following words were written by Angela Catherine Cain, in reference to her new book, Deptford Show Ground – the last permanent fairground in London

During the 1820s ‘Deptford Fair’ took place on Trinity Monday with many drinking and dancing booths and Richardson’s Theatre attending and where the Duke of Wellington ‘marched in procession with the children’. The 1861 Census showed a number of showmen present in Deptford:  hawkers and travellers in Lower Street with refreshment stalls, shows and amusements.  Andrew Purchase’s waxworks show was also present on another site.  By the end of the century, the Deptford Show Ground was well established – a prestigious fairground on Deptford High Street, which boasted  bioscopes and cinematographs (early travelling cinema) wild beast shows, trapeze artists, boxing booths and a range of side shows.  The Show Ground was bought by my great grandfather, Charles Cain and his wife Hannah (née Knighton) in 1912 with money from their fairground shows and from selling ‘swag', or fairground prizes, to other showmen.  By then these shows were going out of fashion and big rides were coming in. In 1916 Cain invested in an iconic set of ‘gallopers’ that is now owned by Botton Brothers in Great Yarmouth.  The last permanent fairground in London, the Show Ground finally closed its doors in 1961.


Carolyn Cain ‘minding’ the Gallopers in 1916.  (Copyright:  Bell family archive)

You can trace the history of the indomitable showmen of Deptford via graves in the Brockley and Lewisham cemeteries that are being discovered currently.  These include the grave of Hannah Cain, the cheery, good-hearted proprietress’ of the Show Ground; and also two young granddaughters, Doris and Margaret Rose, who sadly died in childhood.  Also, Hannah’s brother, Thomas Knighton.  There are also memorials to grandson Barry Cain killed in action in Norway in 1942  and to  son Charles Cain Junior who died in 1968 - who with his brothers had inherited the Show Ground on the death of Charles in 1935.  The famous boxer, Joe Bowker is also buried there:  he honed his boxing skills at the Show Ground before becoming Bantam weight champion of the world in 1904 and 1905. 

Angela Catherine Cain

Author of ‘Deptford Show Ground – the last permanent fairground in London’ available from Amazon or Waterstones.  

Cover price £8.99. Also available from “The Word” Bookshop, 314 New Cross Road.

The grave of Charles Cain with his wife Hannah (nee Knighton) with their son Frederick Cain, also the grave of Margaret Rose Cain (Rita) aged 7, daughter of Thomas Cain. (Brockley Cemetery).

The Grave of Charles Cain (Junior) with his wife Edith Lucy (nee Faulkner) with their infant daughter Doris, aged 1yr 3 mths. (Ladywell Cemetery. The headstone also has reference to their son Sgt. Barry Cain. R.A.F. killed in action in an attack on German Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen in May 1942, Norway

Put together By Phill Barnes-Warden Foblc Member

Family photos copright of Bell Family Archive

Grave photos Phill B-W