Sowerby Bridge 1886

It is likely that the custom disappeared in Sowerby Bridge around the 1840's, but the celebrations which accompanied it carried on and by 1886 these had developed into the type of fun fair described in this newspaper report of that year.

The everlasting round of the travelling showman has again brought him here. This year the rush bearing was almost entirely composed of "roundabout horses" swings, &c., the reason for which, we understand, is, that one enterprising showman had engaged the ground some few days previously, and thus having a monopoly, refused to sub-let it except to such as found favour in his eyes, and were least likely to enter into competition with him. As we have already said, of swings, horses, &c., there was an abundance, and those who like to trace the everlasting circle on a wooden horse, to a monotonous tune from an American organ, have had their fill; those, who with "Sarah, like the swing boats" - and from their appearance on Friday and Saturday nights there were plenty of them - have been well supplied; while those who prefer to do their sea training on dry land, where in case of wreck they can jump out and run, have also had the opportunity.

The show admirers had not much difficulty in making up their minds which to patronise, as only one, owing to many having been turned back, was able to solicit their support" this being "Williams" Phantoscope, or Ghost Show;" which having just returned frotn the Agricultural Hall, Islington, now offered to the public the best entertainment ever known for the low sum of 1d. "An entertainment which was "at once refined, comical and instructive, the first part being highly educational, while the latter part caused the most serious of persons to roar with laughter." The performance began with the play of "Faust and Marguerite in three acts, also intro-ducing little Jim, the collier's lad, and ending with a grand transformation scene of living waxworks." With such an enticing programme one could not help but risk the modest sum of 1d.

On the curtain being drawn the audience was certainly entertained to three acts by children, with the reflected ghosts, both serious and comical, intermixed; but whether it was "Frost, or his wife Margarit" as one of the audience said, it would be hard to tell; and perhaps owing to our limited capacity one failed to see "the instructive part" or even to hear the "roars of laughter." After the three acts, the part of "Jim, the collier's lad, "was composed of a scene showing the supposed grave in the churchyard, with the angels hovering above, and the cottage adjoining. After this came the comical ghost part; and then the grand transformation scene followed, closing the performance, the whole of which had taken about 10 minutes. It was accompanied by the inevitable trombone player, and, considering its variedness, one cannot grumble at the bill of fare.

In the grounds there was the usual following of the various kinds of shooting ranges, one novelty being introduced in the shape of shooting at a ring in the centre of a donkey's body, which when struck caused the donkey to kick, the shooter receiving a cigar or some nuts. Besides this there were cocoa-nut throwing, shieing at dummies; ice-cream stalls, surrounded by children eagerly devouring the icy mixture; hawkers selling packets, every purchaser getting a prize, and of course the profits going to some Institution. The rushbearing has only been thinly attended, and with the exception of a short time on Saturday night, it seems to have only received a moderate support. (1)


  1. Hebden Bridge Times & Calder Vale Gazette 1886.