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

Ilkeston Fair Opening

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.

Booty Box

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 century.
Pat Collins

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 Place.

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.
Only A £1

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.
Spinning Around

Gone 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.
Where Mint Comes From

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 mint!

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.
Bath Street

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 of town.

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 Street.

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.

Home Page
Back to Annual Charter Fair Index
Special Features Index

Terms & Conditions of Use
This website is copyright but licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.
Please credit the photographer Garth Newton, or add a link to these pages.