Burnley’s mill holidays are a thing of the past but the annual wakes fun fair is still going strong. The Burnley Wakes Fun Fair returns to Fulledge Recreation Ground on Wednesday July 9th to Monday July 14th. The fair has been held there every year since 1956 except 2008 when severe weather prevented the event going ahead.
An annual fair was held every year in Burnley from 1294, originally three days around the feast of St Peter, June 28th to June 30th. By the 19th century there were cattle fairs each month and the Burnley July Fair became a local holiday with a fun fair as part of the festivities. The local schools held their annual processions and, with the coming of the railway, the scholars went away on day trips. The Preston Chronicle on July 14th 1849 reported that 1,400 Church of England scholars and friends from Burnley, “accompanied by a band of music, went to Liverpool, crossed into Cheshire, and enjoyed themselves well”. In the previous year, after the scholars belonging to the various schools held their annual procession, “the scholars of the Sunday School Union availed themselves of the privilege to walk through Towneley Park, for which leave had been obtained ” [Blackburn Standard July 19th 1848 page 3]
In the last quarter of the 19th century, the trips increased from day trips to full weeks away. The mills took the opportunity to close down for maintenance. The week’s holiday was at first unpaid but in 1906 agreement was reached with mill owners and, from 1907, mill workers were given 12 annual days holiday each year. Each town in Lancashire was allotted a different week, known as the wakes week, for its holiday. For those who could not afford to go away there was always the parks for recreation. Here is a report on the close of the annual holidays in 1904 . Burnley Express July 23rd 1904, page 5 col.1
To-day the holidays come to a close, and last evening saw the return of hundreds of townspeople who have spent the week “down by the sea” or in some inland holiday resort. If bronzed faces were any criterion, they have spent a delightful week. At home, too, many of those who remained behind have endeavoured to extract the utmost enjoyment out of the holiday. The parks have been exceedingly busy with visitors, especially Towneley, where no fewer than 5,325 persons have passed through the art gallery this week. Bowlers will regret to learn that the bowling green which is being made in the grounds at Towneley will not be ready until next year. There has been a vast amount of bowling on the Queen’s and Scott Parks during the week; in fact, one of the officials yesterday assured us that for them it had been “a record Fair.” He stated that there were no fewer than 200 on the greens at Queen’s Park on Thursday. At Towneley the botanica1 gardens are being stocked with choice loca1 specimens, and some collections, we understand, are to be imported from the Channel Islands and one or two Continental countries.