Honley Feast (1861)

The 1861 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 22 September and Wednesday 25 September.

In the run up to the feast, the Chronicle reported that the harvest had been disappointing, with fears that much of the potato crop would be lost to blight, and that rumours were circulating that the local mills would be closed for two weeks instead of the usual one week. The newspaper also reported that local inns and public houses were stocking up "waggon loads of 'Timmy' and 'Owd Seth'", and that the George and Dragon Inn had converted a neighbouring field into a race track, "so that it is well adapted for pony, ass, or man race, as well as other sports."[1]

The Chronicle reported that the first day of the feast was poorly attended, but trade picked up on the following days despite the poor weather. Monday afternoon had been marred by thunder and lightning, and the number of stalls was much lower than in previous years, although "Cheap John"[2] was in attendance and "chattered away to the multitude". It was also noted that a false rumour had been spread that there had been an outbreak of black fever in Honley, which may have kept some people away from the feast.

The temporary race track proved the main attraction with estimated crowds of around 1,500 each day, who each paid a 3d. entry fee to watch the events. A mile race for a prize of £25 was contested between Tom Firth of Honley and a man named Stewart of Huddersfield — although the race proved close on the first three laps, Firth pulled ahead on the final lap to win by over 20 yards.[3]

Notes and References

  1. "Honley: Signs of the Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Sep/1861).
  2. This was a generic term for an itinerant cookware and cutlery salesman. However, there appears to have been a regular in the district whose name was Mr. Nicolson and who sold his wares from a caravan.
  3. "Honley Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Sep/1861).