AS Christmas draws ever nearer volunteers are busy getting ready for the Lymm Dickensian Christmas Festival on Saturday, December 14.
Started over 30 years ago by a number of retail traders, the event has become one of the main focal points in the village calendar. They encouraged all the shops to dress up in mock Victorian costume and to display their goods in an open market sort of fashion.
Peter Powell was among the team who had helped on that first occasion. He had decided to dress up as a beadle for that first year. However, the late Monica Spence quickly noticed that the procession was missing something – a Lymm based town crier. For the second year he invested in a costume and now, 30-odd years later is Lymm’s dedicated crier. A member of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers, Peter regularly takes part in local and national competitions, most recently Liverpool and Otley.
This year the committee are trying to encourage as many people and traders to dress up for the occasion. The daylong festival, with its parades, sideshows and even an illuminated flotilla on the Canal (Very kindly organised and ran by the Lymm Cruising Club.) brings in a hefty number of visitors and the team like to encourage the traders to make the most of this opportunity.
The Dickensian theme lends itself well to the village, many of the buildings were built during the period and the smoky atmosphere of the chimney pots, cobbled streets and canal all add to the flavour of the day. True, at the time Lymm was intended to be the next industrial town but never quite got there.
Geographically Lymm was in the right spot. The canal to Manchester had cut right through the village square, even cutting the corners off buildings and the village had adequate running water after the damming of the turnpike road. Lord Leverhulme even intended to build his soap factory here. The railways came rather late for Lymm, hampering it is some of it’s more industrial efforts.
Towards the end of the period, the Lymm local board, set up to improve sanitation, became Lymm Urban District Council and a new council office (or town hall) was built.
However, even with the setting up of local water and gas companies, the Urban District Council minutes show poverty was still rife – up to 8 members of a family would occupy single rooms in a terrace on Rushgreen Road. Many local schemes were set up to help relieve this, thanks to local wealthy philandrists. Some of these schemes still run today and are even beneficiaries of the festival.
Dickensian is an apt theme for the village, however, volunteers are keen to see the festival continue to evolve and adapt. The committee are always looking for new volunteers, as well as new stalls and attractions.
“We constantly look at how we can add to the festival” says committee member Ben Selwood.
“Over the years, we have had Old Time Music Hall, Sword Dancers, traction engines, Model T fords, Concert Bands, Choirs e.t.c. give up their time for the benefit of the festival. We encourage it to be an all-inclusive full day event.”
“We have competitions – Best Dressed Male, Female, School and Shop window. We encourage all traders to make the most of the day, by dressing up and getting involved.”
What’s hot and what’s not in Victorian Lymm.
Wear lot’s of facial hair, beards are in.
A hat would suffice dependant on class – Top Hats or Bowlers for business. Long double breasted coats, suits with breaches and long overcoats.
Or pants, a shirt, bow tie and a cap. Poor men may have been able to afford a second hand overcoat. Grocers may wear a straw boater and overcoat.
A large cage crinoline petticoat over a full-length dress, which is placed over a large pannier or bustle and corset. The waist is kept tight and a corset is worn t ogive a conical back.
Hats should be worn, with the hair tied up. The more showy the more class. Or a long cotton dress, with a bonnet would suffice. Maybe with a shawl to keep you warm. Working ladies in service would sometimes wear a mob cap and white apron.
Lymm Dickensian Christmas Festival events start 10:30am in Lymm village centre, and there is a park and ride service from Lymm High School on Oughtrington Lane. For more information please visit http://www.lymmdickensian.org.uk/ or keep ahead on facebook.