Wigan Fair14 Comments
Photo: RON HUNT
Item #: 34838
Thank you for the photo Ron. This brings lots of memories back. A child's fairy tale the fair in the 50s. I used to love going in the black pea tent with my mum. They never taste quite the same, when you do them at home.
Fabulous photo. I think it was in the 1960s when I attended Wigan Fair on a couple of occasions....I certainly remember the Black Peas tent, where the little white cups were just dipped in and out of hot water between customers, but we're all here to tell the tale! My friends and I tended to visit the smaller fairs, on spare land in Ince and Hindley, which were still run by Silcock's. Oh, the excitement as the dark nights arrived and we walked over damp grass and snaking cables towards the lights of the fair. Children don't notice the missing bulbs or the cheap trinkets that constitute the prizes....they just see the magic.
Good pic Ron, the building in middle of pic at the rear looks to be a school, was that the old tech college.
Dave, no the college is to the left of the image. This building has had numerous uses. Tax Office was the first that I can remember. It was a medical assessment centre and a job training company was located there. It was empty for a few years but I think it's now back in use?
Ron, Tax Office is my earliest memory of the building. I remember, the building looked like it was built in the early sixties; I found it an ugly building which did not fit to the environment. It may have been built as an office building to deal with the affairs of tax.
Additionally, I remember the building being empty and quite neglected. At the time, I thought that it was heading for demolition.
Dave, here is some information to give you some bearing regarding the photograph:
- The photographer is somewhere around the corner (back corner on the Market Street side) of the old Market Hall. Obviously, the photographer is above ground level, but I am not sure where. The photograph was taken from a position which seems to be too high to be taken from the top of one of the fairground vehicles. It also seems to be at the wrong angle to have been taken from the roof of the old Market Hall. If it were taken from one of the buildings on Market Street, the photographer must have used a zoom lens and, for me, this would be strange when considering the date. My only answer is, the photographer is on a double-decker bus.
- Over to the right of the photograph, where the big wheel is positioned, is the old bus station.
- To the left, just off the photograph, is the large O & C Rushton Ltd building, which was once the Gas Showrooms.
- One of the buildings "in the middle of the pic at the rear", which you mentioned is on Bridgeman Terrace and is where Doc's Symposium and Allied Pharmacy are.
Therefore, as you view the photograph, you are looking from around the back corner of the old Market Hall on the Market Street area, across the old cobbled Market Square, towards Bridgeman Terrace / Wrightington Street / Dicconson Street etc. area.
Thanks Ron, Ian, it would certainly be a different picture today with the changing of the buildings, the pic might of been shot from the old market office window, I know they had rooms up there.
If I am in the office across the road from the cricket field at the top of Mesnes Street I don’t recall it being a tax office. It was the District Valuers office which was a branch of the Inland Revenue. I recall the tax office being in Bridgeman House which was opposite the top park gates.
Please forgive me if I've posted this before.
The Three Ages.
Every October and May something magical happened in Wigan - Wigan Fair and all the exhilaration that abounded during its stay; although it was said it always rained when the Fair came to town, and there seemed more than a grain of truth that theory . However I thought it would be interesting to look back at 3 different ages .
The first age, children overcome with joy; the excitement this traveling jamboree caused is difficult to overstate , children and adults alike looked forward to its coming for weeks. As you neared the Market Square , long before you saw the bright lights , and there were thousands of naked light bulbs shining in the night you could hear the latest gramophone records playing at top volume , this sound started a funny tingling feeling in your tummy before you'd even clapped eyes on this extravaganza of light, a wonderland. To children something akin to paradise . 'The Big Wheel 'in its usual commanding position near the Ribble and LUT Bus Station , to a child it appeared taller than Blackpool Tower ; before holidays abroad it would the nearest thing to flying most would experience !
A time before computer games and mobile phones when a kaleidoscope seemed the ultimate in visual toys and Magic Robots really did seem magic, until some spoilsport , usually an uncle after a Sunday afternoon snifter ,gave the damming observation "it's worked by magnets " killing the illusion at a stroke. The magic of the fair however was not so easy to dispel, the bright lights the smell of diesel and the hum of the generators powering the Aladdin's cave of colour and adventure. I remember as a toddler sitting on a roundabout perched on the top deck of a bus or a fire engine clanging the bell , waving to my Mam on every revolution and the blind panic when I failed to spot her or a familiar face , the absolute relief on the next revolution seeing her waving furiously realising that I'd missed her last time round.
The second age, as you reached your teenage years the yearning to go to 'Wigan Fair' didn't abate , now at last you could go on 'the big rides ' The Waltzer, where the lads who worked on the fair would show off for the girls waking backwards as the ride was going off at different tangents collecting the fares as they went , if they took a fancy to a girl they would give them a free ride ; I don't think Mr Silcock would have been happy with the concession- if he'd known ! I know it sounds particularly mean but we local lads used to hope they would loose their balance, alas they never did , I imagine they could ride a surf board with ease - show offs , to be fair it was envy because they seemed to be able to walk on water.
The Caterpillar was a favourite with courting couples , a canopy would cover the carriages intermittently, during the darkness a quick kiss and cuddle, it seemed quite daring in those more innocent times , when open displays of affection would have been frowned on ,and a kiss in public tantamount to an hanging offence ! An example of how prudish times were The County Cinema had a few double seats on the back row for those 'keeping company ' , some old folk thought it was like Sodom and Gomorrah. Goodness knows what they'd think of today's King Street .
The Dodgems know to all as Bumping Cars, the fair lads on this ride showing off again, jumping on the bumper leaning into the car taking control , completely ignoring the notices all round the ride 'NO BUMPING' always girls cars of course. the 'fair lads' on this ride as adroit as those on the waltzer. The local lads again longing for a tumble were to be disappointed.
The stalls , Shooting Ranges with tin ducks going round at speed , shoot three in a row to win a prize off the top shelf, not an easy task, I think Roy Rodgers would have struggled to go home with Giant Teddy. Black Pea Saloons, I remember 2 names Holland's and Butterworths , you could sit inside the tent to enjoy the fare , I must admit I never tasted this particular delight ,after an uncle told me the the open vats were open to tampering , that he he knew one lad who threw a 'Dolly Blue' in ,this was by no means the worst of the foreign bodies rumoured to find a home in the boiling cauldrons. Mams assertion that they didn't wash the cups properly another factor in my reluctance . True or not it was enough to make me decide that a Toffee Apple was a safer bet !
The third age, the best of all ! When you take your own children and relive your own childhood through their exited eyes. It is truly a magic that never goes away . When I took my children to 'TheWigan Fair' at it's new home off Greenough Street , the magic came flooding back as I relive the memories of yore. They on the roundabout clanging the bell , me the one waving like mad in case they couldn't spot me.
Every year it was my duty to win a goldfish , this not as easy as it sounds for a non dart thrower. The feat was to stick a dart in three separate playing cards displayed at the back of the stall ,if you speared one and it fell out it didn't count equally so if two darts found their way into the same card ,void game . One particular visit I had so many attempts it cost more than a fresh salmon ! On another occasion I 'won' one , unfortunately it that had shuffled of its mortal coil before we even reached home . Back to the fair with the lifeless body swinging in the plastic bag hanging on the choke of my old Austin Cambridge , quite disconcerting really as the corpse seemed to come to life with the motion of the car, so much so I wonder if I'd been premature in declaring Ralph's demise (the children named it thus before the unfortunate creature took leave of its new family) Panic, maybe it was only asleep, when the car stopped and the water stilled , my original diagnosis was proved correct . To my surprise the stall-holder was quite sympathetic and gave me a replacement without a fuss , and to boot gave a little tub of fish food for my trouble . Happy to report Ralph 2 lived to a ripe old age.
All three ages enjoyed the 'Pot Fair ' run in conjunction with main event ,this took place away from the main show-ground on the other side of The Market Hall . It was almost like a show, the patter of the auctioneers fascinating on lookers , they all seemed to have cockney accents with an ability to throw dinner plates in the air as good as any juggler , then balance 6 plates along his arm as he invited bids , I watched spellbound and would try to imitate him when I got home to my Mams amusement, until I broke 2 plates ! The spiel exciting would be buyers into a possibly an unintended purchase , going home with a 21 or 18 piece tea set , earlier in the evening they hadn't realised they need . Many of these impromptu buys would finish up as weddings presents ,as would the eiderdowns and blankets bought in an equal moment of madness , we're all suckers for what appears to be a bargain !
It seems another age since going to Wigan Fair was such a big thing ; Mams and Dads struggling home with the aforementioned crockery, bedding and even roles of oilcloth ( for younger readers, an inexpensive type of cushion floor ) . Children tired out after being allowed to stay up past the their normal bedtime; on a high with a windmill bought as bribe to leave the the bright lights behind . I'm aware we have so much more today , but wouldn't be wonderful if todays children and adults for that matter could experience just a little of that magic, from what seems a bye gone age . I know ,I know, rose coloured spectacles again ,but there's no harm in remembering happy times !
You are very welcome, Dave. I hope it was helpful.
By the way, it is certainly a very different picture today. Sadly, some of those splendid buildings - to the right and to the left - were demolished many years ago. Even one of the streets in the photograph was, as to say, taken off the map. Much of this destruction took place in the 1980s.
Thankfully, the old O & C Rushton Ltd building is still standing.
The building in the middle background was a garage and petrol station when I remember it in the 1960s and 1970s. It later became a couple of shops. The tax office was at Bridgeman House where Bridgeman Terrace meets Mesnes Road. The building everyone is alluding to was part of the Inland Revenue and , as stated elsewhere, it was a medical assessment centre amongst other things. That was built after this picture was taken (1960s) and this picture was taken in the 1950s, possibly from the Queens Hall tower.
That's a lovely story, Tom.....I HAVE read it before but a long time ago and it was lovely to re-live the memories. In fact I often re-read your "May Queen" story, which is one of my favourites. We also had a "fairground goldfish" which Our Jamie won as a little lad and it lived for years.....its name was "Glug"!
Stuart, the garage you refer to was Mabs Cross Motors which was the Vauxhall dealership for Wigan and, as you say, there were fuel pumps in the forecourt.
Stuart, check out this link