Thornton Cleveleys Gala is one of the Fylde coast’s most historic festivals. And to celebrate it being nearly 120 years old, organisers this year held a special exhibition at Cleveleys Community Centre.
Featuring historic photographs, artefacts such as rose queen dresses, crowns and gala programmes, it proved popular with locals, keen to find out about the gala’s past and share their memories.
There are two different stories of its conception, but it is believed the gala was first celebrated in 1898.
In a programme from its 50th year, the founding of the gala is attributed to local stalwarts Mr W A Hardman and Mr Walsh. They intended to hold a field day for a handful of youngsters.
They solicited subscriptions from residents to provide refreshments and prizes for races. The use of a field was obtained and a local farmer provided a farm lorry and decorated horse – the only vehicle in the procession. The gala then progressed as the idea appealed to the local vicar, who decided it should be a church event.
The second version of the story was disclosed by Fred Anyon – a former Gazette reporter – to former gala chairman Tom Croft. His version tells how the gala was developed by members of a sick club who paid a weekly amount into the club to cover any loss of earnings for doctor’s expenses to members and immediate relatives.
In mid-summer, the annual meeting took place at the Gardeners’ Arms, Thornton, where the balance sheet was presented and benefits subscriptions agreed for the following year. Once business was agreed, a fiddler came from Poulton and the celebrations commenced. The all male-affair would start at Tarn Gate railway crossing and the first stop to Christ Church was the Bay Horse Hotel to pick up other members. Little has changed since the gala’s 50th year – although back in the day adult sports used to be held during the evening.
• This year’s gala takes place on June 12. Anyone who would like to share memorabilia can contact Emma Ellison on 07791876962 or firstname.lastname@example.org