Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Fairground folk at the Wirksworth Tap Dressings (2)

Image © 2008 & courtesy of DigitalGlobe, Infoterra Ltd. & BlueSky
Wirksworth Town Center - Market Place, West End & St John's Street
Click image to see on Google Maps

The third photograph in the series of the Wirksworth Tap Dressing festivities appears to have been taken from somewhere in front of Coldwell House, on Coldwell Street, looking roughly eastwards across St John's Street onto the Market Place, with Dale End disappearing off to the right. This facade, although it has been somewhat modified over the intervening years is still recognisable from the elevation drawing of numbers 6 to 11 Market Place on John Palmer's Wirkworth site, in particular the semi-circular window on the top storey of the tallest building.

Image 3 - Wirksworth Market Place
Click for more detailed version

In the right foreground, the iron railings appear to be in front of Coldwell House, immediately adjoining the corner of The Red Lion (e), which is the tall brick building on the right. Most iron railings in Derbyshire were removed during the War for the manufacture of munitions (at least this is what my father told me some years ago). None are shown on the elevation drawing of The Red Lion and Coldwell House, or are apparent on the satellite images, so presumably they have indeed gone.

The two young women walking towards the photographer are dressed fairly typically for the mid-1880s. One of them appears to have noticed the camera, and is unsure whether she should be posing or not; the other is still deep in animated conversation, or perhaps she is fascinated with whatever is on offer at the stall on the other side of Coldwell Street, in the left foreground of the photo.

Detail of two young women from Image 3

(f) Up against the buildings on the far side of Market place are the frames of the swings. At first I thought they might be "swing boats," which were popular fairground attractions at the time. However, the poles of the frames don't seem to be substantial enough to hold swing boats and, besides, if one looks carefully at an enlargement of the photograph, it is possible to just make out a boy, presumably standing on some type of platform, and about to set off on the swing.

Detail of boy on swing from Image 3

Immediately in front of the swings, and directly behind the head of the dappled white horse, is the end of one of the show people's caravans, and what looks to be some kind of water tank, although the platform on which it sits is hidden, partly behind a tent, and partly by the horse. To the right of the horse is a parked cart or wagon, perhaps used for transporting the fairground stalls or rides.

The tent situated behind the horse and cart (g) is a shooting gallery, as shown by an enlargement of the sign in the entrance, but I've not been able to make out the name of the proprietor - perhaps it is something like "..OLE SHOOTING ..."? The 1891 Census list of showpeople on the Morledge, given in a previous post includes several shooting galleries, including one owned by Charles Warwick's mother-in-law, Emma Sketchley (and Arthur Ashmore, William Howell & Frederick Pemberton), and a "travelling rifle saloon" operated by Albert Hall.

Detail of sign above shooting gallery from Image 3

(h) The teenage boy driving the horse and cart are great fun. He is using the weight of his body to pull back hard on the reins, trying to keep the horse going in the right direction, or to prevent it from going too fast; you can almost hear him crying out, "Whooooaa boy!!!" Also of interest is the cart itself. From the presence of rivets along all the edges, most easily visible immediately below the driver's seat, my interpretation is that it is made entirely of metal. A rectangular metal box of this size suggests to me a water cart, and indeed one can see what appears to be water spraying out of the back of the cart onto the road, presumably to keep down the dust.

Detail of boy driving cart from Image 3

(i) There is another stall to the left of the shooting gallery, complete with awning, but I've only been able to make out what appear to be two large oval mirrors, and little else.

(h) The stall in the left foreground of the photograph, at which two men are browsing, is also difficult to make out in much detail, apart from the three drums at the front.

The remaining two photographs will be discussed in post number three of this series.

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