One hundred years ago, the pleasures of
life were much simpler than they are today (2009); even though
wages were low and many families suffered great hardship, people
knew how ‘to let their hair down’ and enjoy themselves. Until
the early years of the 20th century, people made
their own entertainment; there was no radio or television, no
computers or sophisticated toys and, therefore, great
imagination was called for in organising social and celebratory
(Please click on each of the section
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Traditionally high days and holidays were
governed by the dual influence of the seasons and the Christian
calendar; however, some of our festivals have their origins in
pagan rituals. Christmas is celebrated at the same time of year,
as the Winter Solstice, the Germanic feast of Yuletide and the
Roman Saturnalia, and many of its modern traditions, such as
decorating the house with greenery and lights, the Yule log and
feasting have their origins in these pagan festivals. During
Victorian times, Christmas became a family celebration with new
customs of exchanging cards and presents, visits from Santa
Claus, and decorated trees - made popular by Prince Albert.
The agricultural year began on Plough
Monday – the first Monday after the feast of the Epiphany,
January 6 – with farm workers returning to the work after
Christmas; this was accompanied by much feasting and frolicking.
Shrove Tuesday followed with pancakes and races, and gave way to
the austerity of Lent, which ended with Easter celebrations of
eggs, fairs and games ushering in both Spring and the
Originally May Day celebrations were
unashamedly pagan: it was a festival of youth and fertility with
garlands, May dolls and Maypole dancing. It was revived in
Victorian times with the old pagan influences being replaced by
moral celebrations; it became essentially a children’s festival
with parades, organised displays of Maypole dancing and the
crowning of the May Queen. Until the post-war years, May Day
celebrations were always popular in village and rural
communities throughout the country, and Tickhill was no
Whitsunday brought Whit walks and parades,
fairs and new clothes for children, and was followed by
midsummer, whose rituals were once again shrouded in pagan
rites; in Autumn the last cartloads of the harvest were
celebrated by feasting and dancing -
Harvest festivals, however, were a relatively new idea. In
1843, the Rev. Hawker, vicar of Morwenstow in
Cornwall revived the
ancient thanksgiving of Lammas, which had originally been held
on August 1 when the first wheat was harvested; the date was
moved to October when harvesting was complete. The custom
rapidly spread to other parts of the country; churches were
elaborately decorated and thanks were given for a fruitful
harvest. The year ended with Hallowe’en and Bonfire night.
Like other villages and rural communities
throughout the country, Tickhill people celebrated these events
in a similar way.
People in agricultural areas have always
taken great pride in their crops and livestock and, in turn,
took great pleasure in displaying them at the local agricultural
show. These ranged from the national Royal Show, which first
came to nearby Doncaster in 1891 and returned at intervals until
1912, to small local shows, such Tickhill Agricultural Show.
Competitions for best breeds of livestock, crops, fruit,
vegetables and flowers, tugs-of-war and displays of ploughing,
together with fairground rides and sideshows were all part of
the eagerly anticipated annual event.
Feasts and fairs were traditionally held to
celebrate the patronal festival of the parish church or the sale
of livestock, or in the case of the annual Michaelmas hiring
fairs – people! Originally, they were a time of feasting and fun
accompanied by colourful events such, as cock fighting, bull and
bear baiting, wrestling and - drunken revelry. However, like May
Day celebrations, the worst excesses were curbed in Victorian
times and they became more respectable, family events, bringing
colour and excitement into the drabness and routine of everyday
Every community had its fair whether large or
small; they were characterised by fairground rides and
sideshows, dancing displays’, food and drink, together with
sporting events and other competitions.
Today (2009), most villages and rural
communities hold an event, which combines elements of the
agricultural show, feast and fair.
Bazaars, garden parties, together with sales
of work were an important, largely middle class, female
activity, usually associated with church and chapel. The belief
that all recreational activity should be of a moral and
improving nature focused their time, dedication and energy
towards charitable work and fundraising for missionaries. The
Castle grounds and Sandrock House were popular venues for such
events in Tickhill.
Important events in the life of the nation
presented an occasion for community celebrations; the national
way to mark the declaration of peace, Empire Day, a coronation,
jubilee or royal wedding was a joyous out door event. Towns and
villages were decorated with flags, banners and bunting; in
urban areas, people celebrated with street parties, sports,
games, singing and dancing; in rural communities the village
green - in Tickhill the Butter Cross and Market Place - or a
local field were the centre for similar festivities.
Schools and Sunday schools played a big part
in organising the celebration of these events, which were often
preceded by a service of thanksgiving before the commencement of
the festivities. Empire Day, in particular, was primarily a
schools’ festival. To mark these special occasions all school
children received a memento, such as a mug, spoon or tin of
toffees, from the Local Education Authority.
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth ll in 1953
was the last national event to be celebrated nationwide in the
traditional way. By the Silver Jubilee in 1977, television had
come to dominate people’s lives, and whilst some communities
celebrated with parties and festivities, most were happy to sit
back and watch the national celebrations on ‘the small screen’.
After a long, hard working day, sporting
events and activities provided leisure and recreation for people
both as participants and spectators. In the latter half of the
19th century, physical recreation became increasingly
popular with young people, and the range of sports on offer
expanded rapidly, largely due to support and encouragement from
churches, chapels, Sunday schools and the YMCA. Sport was seen
to have a positive effect on society, instilling a true sense of
achievement, discipline and team spirit; whilst sport was
occupying people’s leisure time, the working man was thought to
be less susceptible to bad influences, such as drinking and
The most popular sport was, undoubtedly,
football: it was considered ‘the game of the working class’;
cricket, rugby, tennis, golf and hunting were enjoyed mainly by
the middle classes. By the beginning of the 20th
century, however, amateur clubs representing most sports had
been founded in towns and villages throughout the country. Local
parks offered great opportunities for everyone, providing large
open spaces for football, cricket and rugby, and facilities for
tennis, putting and bowls.
Tickhill offered a wide
and varied range of sports for local people both to participate
in and enjoy, which included football,
cricket, hockey, skating, tennis, rugby, bowls, cycling and
hunting. There were several sporting clubs, which
played an important social, as well as recreational, part in a
Like sport, music offered
people the opportunity to participate or, in this instance, to
listen. Community music making, both choral and instrumental,
has been a popular activity since the 19th century;
every church and chapel had its choir, and organisations from
the pit to the factory and the Co-op to the Scouts had their own
brass band - between 1900 and 1950 no community event was
complete without their presence.
Music played an important
part in people’s lives: from songs accompanied by the ‘whistle
and fiddle’ in the local alehouse to the respectability of a
family singsong around the piano, from the choral society to the
local brass band, this was entertainment that could be enjoyed by all.
Music has featured prominently in Tickhill
for almost 180 years; it’s association with the brass band
movement began in 1850, and it can boast an even longer
tradition of choral music from the formation of Tickhill Choral
Society c1832 and Tickhill Harmonic Society in 1849 to the more
recent Tickhill & District Male Voice Choir in 1969 and, of
course, St Mary’s Church choir.
Until the late 20th
century, a wedding was probably the most important event in most
people’s lives – something they would always remember. It was
the beginning of a new life with someone special: vows were made
and rings exchanged in front of family and friends in church,
chapel or registry office.
In the past, the choice
of date was considered very important, and people heeded the
saying ‘Marry in haste, rue for aye’; farm workers avoided
harvest times and favoured autumn, winter or Easter. Although it
was traditional for the bride to wear white, dresses were rarely
bought specially for weddings until 19th century;
until then the bride would wear her best dress, which was
usually coloured. Flowers represented fertility: roses, lilies
of the valley, lilies and orange blossom were all traditional,
and myrtle was considered the luckiest; some brides chose flower
girls carrying baskets of petals rather than bridesmaids; the
tradition of throwing rice was also symbolic of a fruitful
Until the late 19th
century, the bridal procession went to church and back on foot.
The feast or reception with the traditional wedding cake - the
oldest of the nuptial rites originating since Roman times –
followed, and the celebrations usually ended with singing and
‘Treats’ and Excursions
Until post-1918, simple
pleasures, such as day trips to local beauty spots or further
afield, were considered ‘high days’ for the working classes,
they had neither the time nor the money to take a holiday, which
was seen as the prerogative of the rich. These outings were
usually arranged by Sunday Schools, the local pub, organisations,
such as the Scouts, or by coach and charabanc operators, and
visits to Doncaster beauty spots, such as Hexthorpe Flatts,
Sandall Beat and Beechfield Park, or Roche Abbey, Clumber Park
and the Dukeries were all popular with Tickhill people.
At the beginning of the
20th century, increased wages and cheap travel made a
visit to the seaside a distinct possibility for many people;
railway companies realised there was a market in day trips for
low-income families, and promoted the ‘cheap day return’,
particularly at Bank Holiday weekends. Unprecedented crowds
flocked to the seaside, with the east coast resorts of
Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe, Bridlington, Filey and Scarborough
firm favourites; by the inter-war years, many families were
beginning to extend their stay and enjoy a short holiday at the
In the past, all leisure
and recreational activities were seen as family or community
affairs; a great sense of community and team spirit prevailed,
whether in organising celebratory events or sporting and musical
activities. Life was less complex than today, and people took
great delight from simple pleasures.
Baker, Margaret, Folklore and Customs of
Rural England. David & Charles. 1974.
Tickhill: portrait of an English country town. Waterdale
Old English Customs. David & Charles. 1971.
Chronicle: various references
Gazette: various references
Gordon, Sheila, Holidays. B.T.
Harris, H.A. Sport in Britain: its
origin and development. Paul.1975.
Hole, Christina, A
Dictionary of British Folk Customs. Helicon Publishing Ltd.
Horn, Pamela, Pleasures and
Pastimes in Victorian
Mardsden, John, The Organ
and Choir of St Mary’s Church Tickhill. Author.1994.
Purton, Roland, Festivals
and Celebrations. Blackwell,1981.
Sauvain, Philip, Holidays
and Pastimes. Wayland.1991.
Tickhill Jubilee Brass Band
1887-1939, compiled by Den Stockley. 1994.
Walvin, James, The
People’s Games: the history of football revisited.