A look ahead to the Old Glossop Victorian Christmas Fayre
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 November 2019
Mike Smith looks forward to his seasonal visit to the Old Glossop Victorian Christmas Fayre
Anyone who is acquainted with the streets of Old Glossop from visits they have made in the past will be astonished by the unfamiliar scene that will greet them if they make a new visit to this ancient enclave on the afternoon of the first Sunday in December. The experience will be rather like coming home from work and opening the door of the house to be confronted by a large and noisy group of people who have gathered secretly to put on a surprise party.
Church Street, the main thoroughfare of the old town, which is normally so quiet, will be awash on that day with hundreds of people visiting the Old Glossop Victorian Christmas Fayre. With so many visitors jostling to obtain a closer look at the wares on display on the stalls, which will have been arranged along the entire length of Church Street, the tide of visitors will be flowing very slowly.
The hugely popular fayre has been a keenly anticipated pre-Christmas event ever since it was established six years ago by the Old Glossop Residents' Association. David Scanlon, the Chairman of OGRA, said: 'Most of the 36 stallholders who will sell their products at the fayre this year will be representatives of small local businesses or residents who are part of a very vibrant cottage industry in crafts and local products. Entertainment will include clog dancing from Milltown Cloggies, renditions by an ensemble from Dark Peak Brass and singing by Glossop Choral Society and the choir of All Saints School.'
David added: 'The profits from this community-driven annual event are shared between Glossop Mountain Rescue, who bring Father Christmas to the fayre with them, and OGRA, who use some of the proceeds to put on a free lunch at the Queen's Arms for isolated and vulnerable pensioners. The event is also partially funded by our local and district councils, and logistical support is provided by Arconic's Glossop factory.'
The attractive displays on the stalls will be matched by the period costumes worn by the stallholders. Most of the female stallholders will be wearing bonnets and shawls to protect them from the December chill and some of their male colleagues will be wearing top hats or cloth caps and sporting waistcoats and 'grandad shirts'. A further yuletide scene will await visitors to the Parish Church, where church members will be selling homemade refreshments and providing seasonal music. At the 2018 fayre, some of the music in the church was played by a young flautist dressed as a Christmas Elf.
Drinks available at the stalls in Church Street and around the old market cross at the foot of the street will include punch, mulled wine and local ales supplied by the Howard Town Micro-brewery, which was established in Old Glossop in 2005. The current owners, Stuart and Emma Swann, brew a very impressive range of craft beers and provide regular tours throughout the year of the production facilities. These visits end up in the brewery tap room.
There are three public houses in Old Glossop. The Bull's Head is the oldest of the town's pubs. It was built in 1605 and was officially recognised as a pub in 1787. The nearby Wheatsheaf has food offerings that include Steak Nights and Greek Nights, and the Queen's Arms, at the foot of Church Street, serves traditional pub food and has an Indian Restaurant on its upper floor.
Shepley's Café completes the range of food and drink offerings. It serves loose-leaf teas, cakes, snacks and vegetarian food in a welcoming atmosphere. Needless to say, all three pubs and the café will be packed on the first Sunday in December with people seeking relaxation and refreshment after they have emerged from the slow-moving throng on Church Street.
The community effort behind this ambitious fayre is an indicator of the pride residents feel about living in an enclave that has survived intact from the days before industrialisation and subsequent residential and commercial developments completely transformed the rest of Glossop. Seemingly oblivious to these massive nearby changes, the buildings of Old Glossop have retained the charming appearance they first acquired in the 17th century, when large tracts of Glossopdale came into the ownership of the Howard family, whose head is the Duke of Norfolk.
The family delegated the administration of their estates to the Manor Bailiff, who lived at the strikingly beautiful house located at the head of Church Street. Constructed in 1689, the building has prominent string courses and four symmetrically-arranged mullioned and transommed windows. The house is attached to an equally attractive terrace of much smaller dwellings, whose wide mullioned windows were designed to maximise the amount of light entering the rooms where home-weaving took place. These dwellings descend in echelon to a former market place, where more old weavers' cottages form a picturesque cluster around a medieval cross, topped by a cross-head added in the 20th century to commemorate the accession to the throne of King George V.
A great view of all these unspoilt period buildings can be obtained from the churchyard of All Saints' Parish Church, a large place of worship surmounted by a broach spire that looks as if it ought to belong to a much smaller church. The spire was constructed in 1854 as a replacement for an earlier broach spire. Other 19th-century changes at the church included a radical rebuilding of the nave.
Ironically, these developments at the Parish Church, paid for by the Dukes of Norfolk, took place after the centre of gravity of Glossop had shifted westwards from Old Glossop to the valley floor, where enormous mills were being constructed. By the middle of the 19th century, over 50 mills had been built, with most of them being devoted to the manufacture of cheap fabrics destined for colonial markets.
Most of the mills have been demolished now, although two of the largest former factories have been converted to new uses. The vast Howard Town Mill has been transformed into an apartment block, including penthouses occupying a newly-added top storey, with lower floors being used to house shops, restaurants and a 62-bedroom Travelodge. Wren Nest Mill, on the western side of the town, has also become a large apartment block supplemented by a range of shops on the ground floor. The construction of new housing estates and shopping centres in recent years has completed the metamorphosis of Glossop from a dark satanic mill town to a busy 'Gateway to the Peak'.
Mercifully, Old Glossop has remained unchanged throughout all these upheavals and has preserved a separate and distinct identity. As well as organising the Victorian Christmas Fayre, members of the Old Glossop Residents' Association keep a watchful eye on all planning applications in order to ensure that the unique character of this ancient quarter will be protected against inappropriate intrusions. u
The 2019 Victorian Christmas Fayre in Old Glossop will take place from 1.15pm to 5.30pm on Sunday 1st December. Photographs of the Fayre accompanying this article were taken at last year's fayre.