A tradition that now seems very ancient as we holiday as often as we like, but in the 1920s it was a very different vacation.Advertisement
Wakes Weeks saw Preston head for the coast and take a trip away leaving the then town centre a deserted place for a fortnight.
Archive video footage from 1925 shows workers streaming to Preston Railway Station to catch a train for Blackpool and other seaside resorts.
Many workers would save for a year in a holiday club and then relocate to the coast for a week or two.
The wakes week became a two week shutdown in the North West of England, with each town in Lancashire taking a different week each between June to September.
The tradition continued into the 1950s as this picture in the Preston Digital Archive shows a coach outside The Victoria Hotel in Lostock Hall waiting to pick up holidaymakers for a trip to Blackpool.
To give an idea of the prominence of the Wakes Weeks in those early days, Stanley Houghton’s popular play of Lancashire life which was written 1912, has been filmed several times for both cinema and television. The story is based on a growing reaction against the legacy of Victorian morality and at a time when younger people were wanting to have more control over their personal lives. During the Wakes Weeks a young lady decides that a woman has just as much right as a man to enjoy a brief sexual flirtation with no strings attached and with this in mind a whole story emerges which affects the lives of the people around her.
One of the most popular versions of the film was the 1952 offering directed by Arthur Crabtree. In this film the location for Daisy Bank Mill was Horrockses Yard Works on Stanley Street. A still of the film is shown in the picture below. It reasonable to imagine that the filming of the exterior mill scenes were also shot during the actual Preston Wakes Weeks as that would probably be the only time when you would find the mill virtually abandoned.
You would always know when the Wakes Weeks were taking place in any Lancashire town as the streets were usually more or less abandoned, with most of the shops and stores closed for the two week duration. It was generally a time when necessary maintenance took place in all the factories and shop owners could put a lick of paint on the woodwork of the shop fronts; a very quiet time for the emergency services too no doubt.
There still remains a great number of people around who will recall the Wakes Weeks of their town and not least, senior Prestonians. It would be a good time now to be talking to older relatives and friends and asking them what it was like before there is no one left to tell the tales of the great Wakes Weeks.
Do you have any memories of Wakes Weeks? Do your relatives have any? Let us know in the comments below