Warrington Walking Day

Walking day in the 1960s. This group was walking with St Peter’s Church (now long gone) and they are seen on Lythgoes Lane having walked under the very wide railway bridge of the Cheshire Lines. Do you recognise yourself in the photo.

Stockton Heath Walking Day 2006 (thanks to Kathy). Stockton Heath, like other villages on the outskirts of the town have a separate walking day around June or July each year.

Warrington Walking Day is a tradition which started out in 1834 (possibly 1832). It was a local holiday in its heyday when everybody turned out to either take part or be a spectator and the shops all shut. The event is a walk or procession of witness by most of the churches in Warrington. The idea came from Rector Horace Powys who wanted to create a counter attraction to the Newton Races, which were held in mid to late June – the rector felt that people needed something else apart from drinking and gambling. The event takes place on the nearest Friday to 1 July each year.

This is me as a 17-year-old lad on the Town Hall lawn. I walked with St Mark’s Church, Dallam at the time in 1980. I am wearing a cagoule because the archive recalls the weather was “Lashing rain and March temperature”.

St Alban’s Church on Bewsey Street The parish was founded in 1772 by the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey, and was the first Roman Catholic church in the town after the Reformation.

Latchford Methodist Church opened on 11 October 1894.

Pamela Hughes adds these memories about Walking day.

I was born in Warrington and lived in Morley Street with my parents until I was 26. Both they and my grandparents were parishioners of Warrington Parish Church and I vividly remember the excitement of Walking Day. Indeed, we looked forward to it more than Christmas.

We had to be up very early because my father had to go for my flowers to my aunties or the florists. He also had to go to the rectory to collect the church banner, which was paraded at the front of the Parish Church procession with him carrying one of the poles and me, as I grew older ‘On the Banner’ as we used to say, always in a new dress and shoes.

Happy memories.

In the afternoon you might go out on a coach trip to Southport, Blackpool or North Wales if you were lucky, or stay in Warrington for the fairground which had been set up for the day. The grown-ups would have a drink or two and the kids would make do with a bottle of lemonade and a straw and a bag of Walkers!

At first only members of the Church of England took part but by the middle of the nineteenth century there were three processions, including the Catholic church and the Non-conformists. Nowadays, and since the IRA bombing of the town in 1993, all the churches walk together.

The outer villages and districts, such as Stockton Heath, Penketh, Padgate Grappenhall and Orford have their walk in their own locality. Apart from the period of the Second World War when it was rained off, and in 2019 and 2020 during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic it has taken place ever since.

You set off with your particular church group carrying a banner saying which church you represented and you walked to the Town Hall, often with the Boys Brigade band or similar announcing your presence.

At a set time (usually from around 10.30 a.m.) you then take your position in the procession and walk around town centre. Little girls would appear in beautiful dresses and little boys were often dressed in smart suits, or shorts and blazer, with shiny new shoes. They would eagerly look out for somebody they knew who often thrust a shiny copper coin or two into their hand as their ‘Walking Day Money’.

The Mayor and Mayoress (or consort) would wave to you from their special podium outside the town hall gates. The route takes you down Arpley Street, Museum Street, St Austins Lane, Friars Gate, Bridge Street to Bridge Foot, turn around sharp and walk all the way up Bridge Street and Horsemarket Street and then back to your church, usually for a quick prayer to thank the good Lord for a fine day.

To finish off, Here are some photos of the event from 3 July 2015 from Kenny O’Dea, presenter on Radio Warrington. All images © DJKennylive.me.uk