Glossop Wakes In Years Gone By.

This article is based partly on the notes of Robert Hamnett, originally published as an article in the Glossop Advertiser in August 1913, and partly on two articles published in the Glossop Chronicle and Advertiser of 26 August 1938. The former describes the Old Wakes which were held in the 18th and early 19th centuries whilst, from 1938, there are a description of the "Tin Trunk" Wakes of the late 19th century and details of the destinations of local holidaymakers just before the second world war.

The Old Wakes.

When the Manor of Glossop came into the possession of the Abbot of Basingwerk Abbey, it was not long before he or his successors obtained a charter for Charlesworth, and amongst the privileges granted was the right to hold a Feast for three days. This is still in existence. Undoubtedly one would be granted for Glossop, otherwise they would not have been market rights attached to the Manor of Glossop today.
This charter, at present, is lost, but may possibly be discovered by the Historical Manuscript Commission, who find all sorts of ancient charters in the most out-of-the-way and unlikely places.

These Feasts, or Wakes, were generally held on the anniversary of the consecration or re-consecration of the Parish Church, and were times of rejoicing when old English games were indulged in and encouraged, and old customs renewed.

In the old churchwardens’ accounts appears almost annually an item of expense for clearing out rushes from the Church.
Rush bearing is a very ancient custom, and was a necessary one, because there were no pews in the ancient times for the common people; carpets were unknown, and as rushes were always available they answered the purpose of keeping the worshippers' feet from the cold flags. They were in general use, and were renewed annually. Each yeoman was expected to furnish his share for the use of himself, family, and labourers.
There was no better time for renewing the rush carpet than at the annual feast.
At first, probably each person would convey his share by his own conveyance, but eventually neighbours would unite and join in mutual conveyance. Rivalry would spring up between the people of the different hamlets, and the rushes would be stacked on the cart as neatly as possible; then decorations would gradually become general until the rush cart of 50 years ago became developed.

As many of my readers may not have seen a proper rush-cart, I will endeavour to describe one. The rushes were tied up in bundles of uniform length and circumference, the ends being cut square; they were then piled close together and formed into a pyramid, a small platform being left at the top, which was generally occupied by some well-known character armed with a can and string, so that he could wind up his share of ale at the ale-houses where it was customary to give the dancers an allowance. Each of the four sides had coloured or white material, carpets or calico, suspended from the top to the bottom, on which was hung the copper kettles and other articles that were intended to be given as prizes, also silver plate lent by the resident gentry.
The edges were decorated with ribbons and flowers.
The rush-cart was drawn by a team of horses gaily decorated, and the harness polished up as for a horse parade. On each side were two or three men with long whips to clear a passage and keep a space clear for the dancers, each of the whip men vying with each other who could make the loudest crack, to the great delight of the boys and girls who followed them.
At the head of the procession were several men who relieved each other in carrying a garland of flowers, a work of floral art and beauty. The dancers were sixteen in number, their hats decorated with artificial flowers and ribbons, borrowed from their sweethearts and friends, white shirts, the sleeves tied with bows of ribbons, knee breeches with a bow at the knees, red braid down the outside of each trouser's legs; in their hands they held wands of cloth, tightly rolled and decorated. The dancers were young men in the prime of life, and had previously been practising for weeks the “Morris dance.” The local band played the "Freemasons' jig,” and, of course, there were nice young ladies with their best smiles and collecting boxes to coax the spectators to give a contribution to the expenses.
Starting from the Old Cross the principal streets and residences were visited, stops being made at all the ale-houses for liquid refreshments, bandsmen and Morris dancers not generally being abstainers. Returning to the Old Cross, the decorations were taken off and safely stored to be returned to their owners, and the rushes carried into the Church and placed in position as the churchwardens directed.

The sports were many, and entered into with vigour, as each competitor was certain in his own mind of winning first prize in the event for which he had entered. Of course, each hamlet backed their local fancy.
The foot racing was generally a very keen affair; the course was from “Salford Bridge” (Wellgate Bridge), “Rough Town” (Hope Street), by the old Water Mills, the Wharf (Shepley Street), Church Street South, to starting point. For long distance running the course was from the Old Cross, down Hall Lane (Hall Street), Turn-o’th-Lane, Mill Town, and Howard Town (High Street East), Ellison Street, Norfolk Street, by the Old Smithy (Smithy Bar), Town End, and Top-o’th-town (Church Street) to starting point.

Climbing the greasy pole for a leg of mutton generally took place in the field, where the bear baiting also took place.
The bear was muzzled and fastened with a chain to a stake, owners of dogs paid 6d. each for the privilege of slipping their dogs at the bear, and often as not lost their dog owing to the bear hugging them to death.
The last bear baiting took place in a field off Bute Street in the rear of Castle Hill in 1840.

The bull baiting took place opposite the Bull’s Head Inn, the stake and ring being still there, but now covered up with road material. A fee was paid as in bear baiting.
The sport (!) consisted in the dog seizing the bull by the nose and keeping the bull's head to the ground, as if the bull attempted to toss the dog the weight of the dog gave the bull intense pain. The dog that held the bull’s head down the longest won the prize or bet, but the dog was not always the winner, but got tossed and was killed or injured. The bulls used for baiting were very wary and used to the game.
Some years ago I was looking over some files of the "Manchester Guardian," and found the following item relating to the Wakes over 90 years since:-
Bull Baiting. - The manly amusement of bull-baiting, so eloquently advocated by the late Mr Windham forms so attractive an amusement in the High Peak of Derbyshire, as to be carried on under municipal patronage, and it is well worthy of record that during the last week the vicar (Rev. C Howe), churchwardens (John Dearnally and Samuel Avison) and constable of one of the most extensive and popular parishes in that district, Glossop, attended an auction sale of cattle for the express purpose of purchasing a bull of superior blood and acknowledged courage, to be baited for the gratification of the inhabitants at the approaching feast (Wakes).”.
It was a dangerous amusement, as sometimes the chain broke, and the audience dispersed quicker than they do when the hat or box is coming round.

Badger baiting was also very popular, the Cheshire badgers being reckoned the best. The badger was placed in a box, or kennel; the front had an aperture sufficient wide for a dog to enter, but not to turn round in it. The dog had to drag the badger out, and it required considerable skill and courage, for the badger can bite very severely, and the dog once bitten could very seldom be induced to try again, though three tries were allowed.

Cock fighting was, and is now in some parts of the country, very popular.
At one Wakes one of the water mills happened to be unoccupied, and one of the lower rooms was used for a cock fight which had been long pending, and had given rise to many disputes as to whether Cock Sam's of New Mills, or Houdin’s, of Dinting, had the best fighting cock. The match was for a £5 a-side, and 3d. each was charged for admittance to the fight.

Pigeon racing was also indulged in, and trail hunting had many patrons. Wrestling and fighting took place, the local champions generally leaving it to Wakes time to settle who was the best man.

Flower and vegetable shows were held, and prizes given. As each cottage had a garden, there were keen competition amongst the amateur gardeners, especially amongst the gooseberry growers.

At the alehouses there was generally an engaged musician to play for dancing.

During the day the Church bells were ringing, the ringers from neighbouring churches trying their skills against the Glossop ringers, who have for long been known as good change ringers.

The mills stopped Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so there was ample time for the various games and events to come off. There were no "Tin Trunk Wakes" then, the people had to stay at home, they had no inclination to do otherwise, as the Wakes was the time above all others when Glossopians who had removed came to see their relations and friends. The larders were filled and there was home brewed ale in plenty. The Wakes dinner was looked forward to as one of the feasts of the year, and ample justice was done to it.

The Wakes stalls were against the Parish Church yard walls, and were well patronised by the young people. Occasionally a travelling theatre would come and entertain Glossopians with "blood and thunder” dramas.

The Wakes was removed from Old Glossop in 1839 to a field where the fish market now is. The removal caused a great grievance, particularly amongst the Old Glossop publicans, but the space in Church Street and round the Old Cross was too small for the increase of the population and became dangerous.

To celebrate the first Wakes at Howard Town a splendid rush cart was built. John Wood and other mill-owners lent valuable plates and watches to decorate it with, and for safety at night it was placed in Mr Wood's Mill Yard, as the Old Glossop people threatened to destroy it.
An old Peninsular pensioner named John Harrop, an ex-military man, who had been in many engagements, was placed in charge, and when this was known no one attempted to interfere with it, for "Old Blucher’s” military career, was too well-known for anyone to risk their bones.
The Garland was made by a man named Johnson, who was an expert hand at the job. The cart was drawn by six grey horses, and witnesses have told me that it was the most memorable rush cart and Morris dancing that Glossop ever saw.

The speeding up of machinery, and the facility for cheap travelling to other places has destroyed for ever the old Wakes times, and many of the old sports and customs have died, never to be again restored, and it is for the best. The change of air, scenery, and life, is most beneficial to the mill workers, and none can wish for a return to the so-called “Good old times.”

Memories of the "Tin Trunk" Wakes.

Last Friday and Saturday a few thousand people left Glossop borough to spend their holidays at seaside and inland health and pleasure resorts.
They did the same thing half a century ago. but with many differences.

In the early days of a week's holiday for workers, not so many could afford to go away as can now do so, and those who could afford to go away at what was then called the “tin trunk wakes” were accounted very fortunate. The advent of wakes savings clubs and tourists clubs made it possible for vastly increased numbers to spend a week at the seaside.

Holiday makers 50 years ago usually took the week's groceries as well as clothes, in big tin trunks, which gave the holidays the title quoted above. Few indeed, had the smart suit cases and leather bags which are now the vogue and even those little round black-Japanned tin hat boxes for ladies, were pressed into service at Wakes time and were generally given to the children to carry to the station.

It was something to talk about then if one had been to Blackpool for a week, and the stay-at-homes - probably the greater part of the population - would assemble round the railway station to see the Blackpool trip depart.
In those days work in the factories did not finish till one o'clock and so from 2 until 6 p m. there would be a stream of tin trunks moving in the direction of Norfolk-street, many young fellows who were staying at home being glad to earn a few coppers carrying the heavily-packed tin trunks to the station, and, if possible, booking the job on the owner's return.

For those whose finances did not permit a week's holiday at some distant place, there were drives into the Peak-land in horse-drawn wagonettes. Crompton and Elliott and Wood Bros, had mews in Glossop and each of these firms would stable some thirty horses. Parties from Glossop and Hadfield would book a two, three or four horse wagonette for a day's drive. It was wonderful what these horses accomplished over the hard Derbyshire roads, and Wood Bros, had a famous little animal called “Blue Peter” which led a team sometimes thrice in the week on the Castleton run.

In these days of fast moving motor coaches, Castleton is only about a couple of hours journey at the most, but with the horse-drawn vehicles - wagonettes or landaus - it was an early morning to late at night journey. These drives were great fun and the younger members of these wagonette parties got plenty of exercise - they had to walk up the hills, and sometimes hold back down hills, only the older people being allowed to remain in the wagonettes when climbing the Snake Pass, Chunal, Peep o' Day, Hollingworth Head and such places.

How those horses knew when their heads were turned In the direction of their stables, and how they responded to the “Gee-up” of the driver. It must be added that the charm and beauty of Derbyshire's incomparable hills and dales could be seen and appreciated far better than they can from a speedy motor vehicle.

Hundreds of Glossopians have felt it was good to be alive when, after a team drive over the moors and through the lovely Woodlands, they have sat down to a breakfast of ham and eggs at the “Yorkshire Bridge”. This famous Inn (The Yorkshire Bridge at Bamford) was known far and near for its ham and eggs, and it as said that only one man ever asked for a second helping here. Host Eyre of those days, made it a rule to give very generous portions to his patrons, and it is said he almost collapsed when one day a Glossop “Oliver Twist” had the temerity to send for more. The worthy host walked into the room where the party was dining, and recovering from shock, asked who it was that wanted more. All eyes turned towards a 5ft 4in slip of a young fellow, who quietly told the host he was the man. Host Eyre, amazed beyond measure, gasped out something not quite audible, and sent in another steaming dish of ham and eggs. As the party left the Inn, he looked with genuine admiration at the mighty little atom who was ever afterwards a welcome guest at the Yorkshire Bridge.

Customs have now changed, and last week-end saw a remarkable exodus from Glossop, Hadfield and Longdendale. A few thousands travelled by rail or road to seaside resorts, inland spas and beauty spots of the British Isles, and a fair number went off to Belgium, France, Channel Islands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Probably this year has seen more people leave here for the Continent than ever before.

The present generation travels extensively, and this Wakes many have been to places far distant which, in pre-war days, were only possible for those with a four figure income.

From early Saturday morning to well on in the afternoon a surprising number of motor buses went from Norfolk-street, and many special trains left Glossop station at frequent intervals.

Where They Went In 1938

The appended list shows where Glossop and Hadfield people have spent the Wakes holidays.

The L.N.E.R. have experienced excellent bookings in advance of last year, as the following figures testify:
Blackpool 300, Liverpool and New Brighton 130, Douglas 60, Southport 70, North Wales 30, Morecambe 20, Aberystwyth 10, West of England 30, Scarborough 55, Bridlington 30, other North-East Coast Resorts 35. Cleethorpes 40, Skegness 35, Clacton-on-Sea 10, other East Coast Resorts 20, Bournemouth 10, Brighton 12, London 40, other South of England 20, South Yorkshire 30, Leicester and Notts district 30.
Evening Excursion, Saturday: Sheffield 20, Lincoln 13.
Half-day Sunday: Skegness 33.
Evening, Sunday: Southport 420.
Tuesday: Half-day excursion Bridlington and Scarborough 40; day excursion to Liverpool, 110.
Wednesday: Half-day excursion, Blackpool 330.
All week up to Wednesday: To Manchester 2,500, Ashburys (for Belle Vue) 800, Guide Bridge 250, Newton 200.

The receipts at the Glossop station show a decided increase over last year.

Mr. J. Tattersall made arrangements for over 200 passengers to go to Blackpool, North Wales resorts, Morecambe. Scarborough, Skegness, and on Saturday and during the week he has been extremely busy with his taxis, conveying private parties. John Tattersall was a taxi proprietor living at 11 Fauvel Road.

The Glossop Carriage Co. have had every available wheel turning, their figures being:
Saturday: Blackpool 360, North Wales 58, Morecambe 160. Eight private cars to Blackpool, three to Scarborough, one to Southport, one to Bournemouth for a week's tour.
Sunday: Blackpool 60, Liverpool and New Brighton 24, Bakewell and Buxton 20, Castleton 26.
Monday: Blackpool 38, Barmouth 20, Morecambe 20, New Brighton 30 Tuesday; North Wales 50, Blackpool 130, Morecambe 48, Liverpool and Mersey Tunnel 90.

The North Western Road Car Co. has had even its great resources taxed. Many people have made use of the 4s. anywhere tickets in addition to the special trips announced.
On Saturday no fewer than nine buses went to Blackpool, five to Scarborough and three to North Wales.

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Last updated: 13 November 2022