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A history of Quorn Wakes (as written in September 1935)

The old village green at Quorn, where the War Memorial now stands, was in the past, the setting for many of the chief events in the life of the village. Here, doubtless for many centuries, the Wakes proprietors set up their booths and stalls early in September, and the men and women, and the boys and girls of Quorn and district flocked to the ancient village assembly ground to enjoy "the fun of the fair".

The stalls extended in the direction of the Blacksmith's Arms and along the High-street, and it is not so many years ago since a large roundabout stood at the cross opposite the Post Office. It would be interesting to know how many years have passed since these ancient merry-go-rounds first began their long association with the village wakes. The older inhabitants of Quorn remember the days when the driving power was supplied by a horse, a gentle rate of progress which would not have made a very strong appeal to the present generation with their love of speed and rapid action.

Fifty years ago, when cycling was in its infancy, a Leicester man attended the wakes every year and let out for hire a weird assortment of tricycles for sixpence an hour or a halfpenny a ride from the neighbourhood of the Blacksmith's Arms to the lodge of Quorn House. This novelty was widely patronised by the youth of the village, but it is doubtful whether it proved a highly paying proposition, accidents being common with these new-fangled machines, which often needed extensive repairs on their return to the stores.

Another popular attraction in these old days was the famous "land and sea ride." This hectic tour, confidently claimed by the proprietor to provide all the sensations of a sea trip, was "endured" in a swing boat rotating on a swivel fixed in a cart which was drawn by a lively horse. The navigator weighed anchor at the Cross, proceeded up the main road, and struck an easterly course when School-lane was reached. Opposite the residence of Dr Harris a sharp left wheel, skilfully negotiated, carried them into Stoop Lane, when the voyage continued via the Apple Tree back to the Cross where disembarkation took place. Judging by the continual shrieks of the passengers, rough seas were encountered throughout the journey, and the soothing effects of liquid refreshment were often necessary on the return to land.

The Wakes last week offered the very latest attractions to their patrons at Quorn. The "Dodge'em" proved one of the most popular side-shows. Here youthful enthusiasts indulged their passion for motoring entirely unhampered by 30 mile limits, traffic lights, and Belisha Beacons. There was but one restriction, a stern notice on the wall proclaiming that head-on collisions were strictly prohibited, a wise proviso which would meet with the unqualified approval of our indefatigable Minister of Transport.

A new attraction this year was the Swirl wherein patrons were rotated at a dizzy pace, and guaranteed a hundred smiles a minute. Immediately opposite stood that old favourite, the Cake Walk, where some fifteen years ago a slight disturbance of the peace occurred, certain inhabitants of the village and one or two showmen carrying marks of the encounter for some days afterwards.

Many years ago cricket matches were held on all three days of the Wakes with the neighbouring villages of Barrow, Sileby, Mountsorrel and Woodhouse. In the good old days when "rough houses" were an invariable part of the proceedings, these matches were rarely completed without the accompaniment of several fights conducted with refreshing vigour.

A Quorn policeman, 60 or 70 years ago, realising the futility of trying to stop these intermittent disputes, adopted tactful means of endeavouring to localise the conflict. He would tap the combatants on the shoulder like a father and point to the hollow at the bottom of the field. "Go down to that there 'oller," he would advise them, "and you can fight till the cows come home, and nobody wont interfere with you."

The presence of a fully licensed refreshment tent on the cricket field, now the park, helped to fan the flames of battle at these ancient cricket matches. This was under the supervision of the landlord of the White Hart, Jimmy Rumsby, a famous old Quorn character. He rarely missed a cricket match and was a conspicuous figure, faultlessly dressed in tall wide brimmed hat and long frock coat. Many of his quaint sayings are still quoted by the older inhabitants of Quorn.

On Wednesday of Wakes Week a cricket match with very ancient traditions was once held in the village. On that day the eleven best cricketers in the village met the next twenty-two, the losers to pay for a substantial dinner at the White Hart. An uproarious evening ensued, presided over by the stately landlord.

After the war for several years Mr Sidney Wright brought a strong team to oppose the village team during the Wakes and Quorn cricketing enthusiasts had the opportunity of seeing in action several of the county players.

For some reason "walking" in connection with the sick benefit clubs at Quorn was always carried out at Whitsuntide and not at the Wakes, as in many other villages in the district. One Quorn man has paid into the Oddfellows' Society for over sixty-two years, which raises the interesting question whether this long period of membership constitutes a record in the neighbourhood of Loughborough.

In 1908 a paragraph in the Parish Magazine recorded that the Vicar (the Rev E Foord Kelcey) was a guest at the annual dinner of the Oddfellows at their headquarters, the Bull's Head. It is interesting to note that in his speech in reply to the toast of the guests he made a reference to the Old Age Pensions Bill, which was then coming into force.

In the introductory article to this series, a reference was made to the religious origin of the Wakes. In order to re-establish the connection of the church with this ancient festival, an open air service was held by the Vicar in September, 1908. It was claimed that this was the first time the Vicar of Quorn had preached in the street opposite to the Wake ground.

The open-air service has been continued by the present Vicar (Canon H H Rumsey) for the last 25 years, and in this way the religious significance of the ancient feast day has been maintained. The musical portion of the service is usually supplied by the Barrow Prize Band, and part of the proceeds of the collection is handed over to the hospital. After Evensong at church an organ recital, arranged by Mr Cox, the chief proprietor at the Wakes, is held for the benefit of the hospital, and as much as 15 has been collected on these occasions. In the last five years Mr Cox has held many of these organ recitals in the Midlands, with the result that he has been responsible for the collection of no less than 1,400, a notable achievement which has provided a welcome addition to the funds of various charitable institutions.

It is interesting to learn that Mr Cox has attended Quorn Wakes for 35 years, and his family have been in the fair business for nearly 60 years.

Nearly 30 years ago, Quorn Wakes were removed from their ancient pitch on the green to their present site behind the factory. For one year part of the stalls overflowed on to the Stafford Orchard, and it is probable that next year the whole of the Wakes will be transferred to this large space belonging to the village. Here full scope will be allowed for the prosperous continuation of this annual entertainment which for hundreds of years has been so well supported by the people of Quorn.

 Submitted on: 2011-01-03
 Submitted by: Kathryn Paterson
 Artefact ID: 1112
 Artefact URL: www.quornmuseum.com/display.php?id=1112

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