Mural on Church Street 2013    Painting by Joseph Parry, 'Eccles Wakes'        Ladies' race for a smock. Drawing, undated.

ECCLES WAKES were held over three days, beginning on the first Sunday after 25th August. This is the feast day of St. Mary, to whom the Parish Church is dedicated.
The Wakes are said to have had their origins in the ancient custom of rush bearing. People would bring cartloads of rushes to spread over the church floor. The carts and the people themselves would dress up for the ocassion and celebrate with music and dance.

By the 19th Century the Wakes had become a somewhat less than pious affair. Races and competitions were held as well as blood sports. These included bull and bear-baiting and cock fighting.

In the illustration, above right, we see a ladies race for a smock. The scene shows the riotous nature of this kind of event. Although many came to Eccles to enjoy the general rowdiness and excess, many locals objected to the gross behaviour and to the cruel sports.
In 1877 the Home Secretary, at the request of the Eccles Local Board, banned the Wakes.
In 1980 artist Ed Povey painted a mural on the side of a shop on Church Street. Over thirty years later the painting had deteriorated and could not be restored but was repainted by Chris Butcher and Sarah Yates in 2012 thanks to Eccles Rotary Club.