NANTWICH'S popular annual winter event,
Holly Holy Day, was a bigger affair this year. Not in the sense of the
2007 event held at Reaseheath College as a summer muster when it grew to
two days and introduced horse-riding combatants, but with extra
attractions to draw the crowds.
The bigger event was
highlighted with the addition of the words "and Winter Fayre" to the
The seven members of the Holly
Holy Day committee must have put in a great deal of work to bring the day to
fruition and deserve much praise. They brought in people from far and
wide, which was their intention, with a reported 4,000 more people than
usual in town.
There was a jester (above)
holding centre stage in The Square in his traditional red and yellow
costume. A favourite in the court
life of Queen Elizabeth I, the jester suffered a decline after the English
Civil War when Oliver Cromwell's Puritans abolished such entertainment.
But there was a revival in later years.
So the court fool perfectly
fitted the period of Holly Holy Day, which commemorated the Battle of
Nantwich in the King-versus-Parliament conflict of 1644. The same
applied to the coach and horse (left) that gave tours of the town to a
succession of passengers - given that highwaymen were recorded in the
17th century. I didn't hear of such a fate befalling the Holly Holy Day
HOWEVER, I am not so
sure about another of the day's attractions. It was a very popular part of
the programme, let's make no mistake about that, but I didn't think that
show songs in modern dress fitted in with the theme of
the day. The children and adults from X Academy - the school for the
performing arts now based in the former Kiltearn Medical Centre -
were popular with the crowds.
True, back at base in Hospital
Street, the programme of events included 17th Century music and dancing
- and if, as I roamed the town looking for things to photograph, I
misses similar entertainment on The Square my apologies.
It was good entertainment, but
of the wrong era.
In case it seems that I am
singling out the X-Academy for criticism, I also noted that there were "balloonists"
(to use the word used by the Chairman of
the Holly Holy Day Society,
Shaun Cafferty). From the 17th century . . . ? Not hot-air balloons (the
usual activity described as balloonists, but people making
The day didn't get off to a
good start when the Town Crier booked to announce the official opening
wasn't able to be present. As a result some people were not aware of
what was going on. One visitor was heard to ask: "Can you tell me what is happening
and where?" This was when there was just the Living History tent by the
church and the people on the Museum's first history tour were elsewhere
in the town.
Perhaps I am being fussy, but I would have preferred all the day's
entertainment to have been with the Civil War theme. Or of that era, at least.
Shaun is the son of
Nantwich Town Councillor, Keith Cafferty, the man behind the town's move
St George's Day and the Nantwich Fun Day (successor to Nantwich
Carnival). For both the latter events, songs from the shows would have
THERE was much for which to commend the HHD Society. As Shaun said in a Press release afterwards: "The biggest
Holly Holy Day event so far went with a bang – literally in the case of
the cannon demonstration enthusiastically performed by the Sealed Knot
"This was just one of the many
new attractions added to the event to give it a wider appeal and make it
a whole day of fun and celebration – and lots of people have been saying
what a fantastic time they had. The whole town was buzzing and
colourful. It has been estimated that 4,000 more people were in Nantwich
than on a regular Saturday.
"Publicans and retailers, even
on the fringes of the town centre, estimated that trade was up by 25% on
the day, which is great for the local economy at this time of year,"
The Chairman also
reported that . . .
the Children’s Corner (at X-Academy), youngsters were treated to Punch and Judy and
magic shows, plus balloon modelling and the chance to try some 17th
Century dancing under the expert guidance of Mo Waddington and the
Forlorn Hope band with their authentic period instruments. . .
"(St Mary's Parish) Church were involved by hosting a hog roast, church
tours and supplying huge holly button holes which certainly added to the
occasion". . . [Proceeds from these events were for the recently-launched Restoration Appeal.]
"The Museum also experienced one of their most successful days with over
500 visitors through
their doors. The Town History tours they ran were also very well
subscribed. . . [Shaun added that the Museum "do a lot to
promote and support Holly Holy Day, involving and educating local
schools as well as lots of practical help throughout the year, so we are
delighted that they were also able to benefit."]
"The Indoor Market also did their bit by promoting a festive air, and
their mulled wine proved very popular!
"The Living History demonstration of 17th Century Nantwich
life [by the Sealed Knot] drew good crowds . . .
. . as did the stage events supplied by X-Academy and the Nantwich
Players, the latter closing with an enthusiastic use of cabbages at the
Pillory! . . . [The Players staged another of their short plays
featuring a 17th century court drama which, as usual, ended with the
guilty person being sentenced to a short time in the replica pillory
opposite the Museum.]
"All the performances were very well received by a large and
appreciative audience, and the strolling street entertainers of
balloonists, jester and juggler were equally popular and did a smashing
job. . . .
"Around the town, Poole’s horse and carriage trips added to the
atmosphere." [In the official programme of the day, that attraction was
described as "a horse and cart"!]
ONE feature of the expanded Holly Holy Day
event which might have backfired on the HHD Society a little was the
gesture of giving free admission to Mill Island for closer views of the
battle re-enactment, A move prompted by the Recession affecting the UK.
It WAS free - to anyone who had bought one of the official programmes of
the day, at £2.50.
One reader of The Nantwich
Chronicle stressed this point in a letter to the Editor.
To be fair, one programme would
admit up to a family of four - hard luck if you had three or more
children - and the booklet was packed with articles giving the history of
the Battle of Nantwich and 17th century Nantwich, written by Allison
Kirk, Community Learning Officer of Nantwich Museum. So it was value for
money for the contents alone - making the admission to Mill Island a
For Health and Safety reasons,
entry to the Mill Island was limited, any way. But it is possible to a
certain extent to watch the battle re-enactment from the Waterlode
(inner ring road) across the River Weaver.