Ilkeston - Business
As Usual At The Fair (No. 757)
w/e 25 October 2009 All this week's pictures were taken
with a Kodak DX6490
At noon on a Thursday in mid October it seemed like business
as usual as the Mayor of Erewash opened the 757th Annual Charter
Fair from in front of the Town Hall. Children and adults alike
surged to the Waltzer and the Big Wheel whilst tickets for a
free ride were handed out and the Mayor and his Consort enjoyed
the traditional ride on the Dodgem Cars.
The fair takes over the whole of the centre of the town for about
a week and is well known as being the largest and oldest street
fair in Europe but for a number of months now a number of shops
that have closed on Bath Street have been sporting large images
of Ilkeston from early in the last century on their boarded up
windows. The former premises of The Booty Box has an enlarged
image of a picture supplied by keen local collector Mr. Andrew
Knighton which shows the fair as it appeared early in the last
From year to year the rides and stalls tend to occupy the same
positions but each year there are usually subtle changes as old
attractions disappear and new ones take their place. The Dodgems,
the Big Wheel and the Waltzer always seem to have the prime positions
on the Market Place near the Co-Op, the War Memorial and the
Town Hall which can all be seen in the background of this image
but the name of Pat Collins is also another that is synonymous
with Ilkeston Fair and can usually be seen somewhere on the Market
It would not be a surprise to me to find that another ride complete
with its fairground organ, the Old Tyme Brooklyn Cakewalk, has
its roots firmly planted in the early part of the last century
and could well have been part of the fair in Andrew Knighton's
photograph. I cannot guarantee that of course but don't remember
a fair since at least the 1950s when it has not stood here between
the Town Hall and St Mary's Church.
The fair operates during the day but it's at night that it really
becomes alive with its bright lights and fun seeking customers.
One stall was proud to proclaim "It's Only a £1"
but the price for most of the rides started at £1.50 even
for children, with many at £2.00 or £2.50 and some
of the larger white knuckle rides were even more. Long gone are
the days when you could enjoy a night at the fair and still have
change from a fiver.
too are the days of coconut shies, bingo stalls, the Hall of
Mirrors and "freak" shows with the likes of the bearded
lady or malformed animals and humans all of which appeared on
Wharncliffe Road in the past. Nowadays on Wharncliffe Road, its
all about spinning around as fast as possible on the Tagada,
being thrown off bucking cattle at the Crazy Rodeo (left) or
scared on the Ghost Train (right).
The Pimlico car park is also dominated by large white knuckle
rides and in recent years the Magic Mouse Roller Coaster at the
far end has become a regular feature. Whilst the modern fair
has become all too familiar with its noise and bustle it is really
not so very long ago that donkey rides (see Picture The Past image) were the order
of the day but since those days we have become much more considerate
of animal rights.
Stalls selling food have always been popular at the fair but
we no longer see shell fish on sale like we did in the 1960s
and 70s. Mussels, whelks and cockles seem to have been replaced
by noodles and curry but mushy peas are still available although
I didn't dare to ask this stall holder about the source of his
The Lower Market Place with small stalls and refreshment outlets
on one side and a tombola like game, slot machines and another
ghost train on the other has always been a bottleneck with people
pushing both ways or just standing to soak up the atmosphere.
For many years the site now occupied by the Ghost Train (extreme
left) used to be where the Boxing Booth was situated. Crowds
would stand in front of the booth as boxers from the fair challenged
local youths to three rounds in the ring.
During the day, fair-goers mingle with shoppers on Bath Street
and the children's roundabouts and more food stalls now stretch
nearly halfway down the hill. I just hope that the lady seen
here held on to her shopping trolley or someone could well have
been given a thrill ride they weren't expecting down to the bottom
But going back to our theme of years gone by, no fair in the
past would have been complete with the Gallopers or as we know
them around here, the Big 'Osses. Year after year they stood
on the Market Place between the Waltzer and the Dodgems but more
recently have been re-stabled near the Albion Centre on East
Next year the fair will return in mid October; there will probably
more subtle changes to the rides and the layout but I expect
all the main features to be in place and once more it will be
business as usual at the 758th Annual Charter Fair.