A wife, mother and teacher who's always up for learning something new and meeting new friends.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Whit Friday in Northern England

This weekend saw the annual Whit Friday and walks in Saddleworth, a cluster of villages in north west England.
On this day, the schools shut and children take part in walks around the area, wearing their 'Sunday best' to the sound of local brass bands.
If this sounds a little strange to you, maybe it is, but it's a northern tradition that stretches back 'donkeys' years.

Here's a little history to set the scene:
The Feast of Pentecost falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter.  This is followed by a week of festivities called "Whitsuntide".   
The origin of the Whit Week processions of "Sunday school scholars" dates back to 19 July 1821 when there was a procession of the children of Manchester to commemorate the coronation of George IV. On that day, children of all denominations walked in procession from their schools and assembled to sing "God save the King". From then on the annual festival flourished.  Each Whit Friday, local churches or chapels in the region employed bands to lead traditional processions through the streets. Whit Friday was the "Scholars' Walk", or the Church's Annual Day when the girls would have a new dress and the boys would have new trousers, and neighbours, friends and relatives would give a penny for their new clothes. The church officers, clergy and children carried baskets of flowers or ribbons attached to banners.

    Diggle 1924

For more information on the brass band side (of which my knowledge is limited) please follow this link written for The Guardian by a local reporter.  The link includes sound bites of various bands playing traditional marches.

Leyland band (who came 3rd overall this year) playing in Dobcross village.

Dobcross band playing 'Hail Shining Morn' a traditional Whit Friday march.  As a child, when I heard this music floating up through the hills from the valley, I knew Whit Friday had arrived!

Whit Friday also featured in the hit movie 'Brassed Off ' (1996) featuring Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan MacGregor and Tara Fitzgerald.

This scene from the film took place in Delph village on Whit Friday.

My Whit Friday now begins in Mossley, a nearby village where my mum lives.  We watch the local church, school, guide and scout groups march smartly past.  My Mum waves and smiles at her friends as they pass and my sister and me end up in fits of giggles as mum passes comment about everyone's hat and outfit.

We then move very swiftly (before the roads are officially closed by the police) on to Uppermill, the largest village in Saddleworth and the place where I grew up.  Its here that I get the chance to see old friends from school who I only seem to see once a year. And family from across the north who gather together to celebrate.

Being British it would be remiss of me not to mention the weather.  This year the met office predicted a total washout, but Mother Nature smiled down on us and although it wasn't a very warm day, the rain held off long enough to complete the walks.

When the walks are over we all go to a lovely local restaurant, Dinnerstones. Where we enjoy a couple of glasses of wine and some lovely Italian food.



  1. This looks like such fun! Thanks for visiting the Fibro - in answer to your question, it's a type of Australian housing. Very simple. Made from asbestos fibreboard (best not to disturb it). Knocked up after the war and during the housing/baby booms of the 50s and 60s, as a cheap form of housing.

  2. It's great that traditions like these keep going. I wonder how many have faded out.

  3. It is such a privilege to come from a country with so much history! Glad you had a lovely frollick on Whit Friday. Thanks for Rewinding with this history lesson x

  4. Wow! So much going on! I remember this post from the first time around.

    Visiting via the Rewind.


Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I would love to hear from you and I will reply ASAP! xxx