There's no macabre reason why folk here used to get excited about attending "Wakes". Although commonly associated with mourning a relatives death, the origins of another Wakes evolved from encouraging Anglo-Saxon christianity into festive parish church fairs. Reference is mostly kept amongst Midland regions, where some localities recognised enjoyable visits by a travelling fair or circus with familiar booths and later rides.
It seems appropriate here to give mention that among childhood memories offered by past generations, a few also recalled ornate horse drawn Gypsy caravans making occasional camp in Huthwaite. Roving Gypsy peddlers probably predate the travelling professions of friendlier circus and fairground operators, but held little connection except for likewise portrayal of romantic free lifestyles. Pushing cloth pegs, washing lines and shoddy ironing board covers door to door while claiming mystical powers worthy of extra silver, heard out 1970's muttered curses aimed at most disinterested buyers. Since then, Ashfield or wider areas have not tolerated unlicensed camps, realising motorised mobile homes left a destructive wake of crime waves.
Earliest proof of travelling entertainment comes to light in a personal diary kept by William Rhodes from Sutton. His 1867 entry concisely noted Pinders Circus here. Communities readily welcomed these Big Top performers, who quickly took advantage of the railway networks. Acts included rare sight of wild and exotic animals. A useful team of elephants promoted path while assisted road haulage journeys between towns.
Flattening newly surfaced roads to suit motorised transport was one of many jobs first performed by huge Steam Traction Engines. Other models were commonly adapted for haulage, plus powering the new circus sideshows to add thrill of fairground rides. Although modern portable generators took over electrification, at least one of these elaborately decorated machine always still featured at heart of every good fairground.
Clanking slow progress pronounced when some proudly renovated show models could be seen trundling through Huthwaite, en-route lastly recalled to the grounds of Bentinck Miners Welfare at Kirkby-in-Ashfield. Amongst other clubs and shows, these fine Traction Engine examples link (TractionTime ) / CC by 2.0
The steam engine recalled for powering Huthwaite wakes was actually named Lord Kitchener. Alternative locations were made upon the Recreation or Welfare Parks. But here shows the visiting fairground circa 1910 on Huthwaite Market Place, where it annually formed fond Living Memories shared through Mrs Betty Smith. One humorous prank dated around 1945, found persons unknown managing to release the fairground horses, to be soon recovered after being happily left out grazing upon Jack Wrights Tops.
Youngsters eagerly ran errands for fairground operators during the erecting upon beer crates of rides like Cranky Hosses Carousel, Swing Boat, Waltzer, Cake Walk and Flying Chairs. Rewarded with free tickets firstly tested out the equipment. Slot machines and Dodgem cars added range to the older Helter Skelter, plus familiar sideshow booths that used to include a more awesome boxing challenge of Bare Fist Fights.
Chance to sight the fattest women, a bearded lady or the worlds ugliest man, still featured among larger Circus sideshows when my generation started visiting the nearest Sutton Wakes. Public expectations soon changed during years when the Lammas annually hosted Big Top ring performances suitable for toddlers.
Billings for Uncle Sam's American Circus lastly appeared on the Sutton Lammas in March 2006, but shown during inital setup of the Wakes. This fairgrounds biggest attraction was featuring the latest thrilling rides.
Ashfield District Council then controversially sited a new Lammas Sports facility, although they continue to annually host increasingly spectacular fairgrounds upon Sutton Lawn among Ashfield Show attractions.
Written 06 Sep 13 Revised 09 Sep 13 © by Gary Elliott