Close cookies panel

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience.

If you continue, we'll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website.

Winning ugly at the Egremont Crab Fair

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 31 August 2018
Related property: Braithwaite Court
Winning ugly at the Egremont Crab Fair

As a nation – as a people – the British boast a proud sporting heritage. Indeed a number of sports, though long played throughout the world, originated right here. Football. Cricket. Rugby. Tennis. Squash. And many more.

In most instances we’ve long since ceded superiority in these contests to Johnny-come-latelys who have the temerity to be better than us – to beat us at our own games. Which is probably why the Brits love an underdog because that, all too often, is what we are. But we never tire of taking part.

Nor of inventing new contests which to outsiders must appear perplexing. Bog-snorkelling, gravy-wrestling, pram-racing and coal-carrying are all relatively recent additions to the British competitive canon which have managed to gain a toehold in the nation’s consciousness. And every year brings news of another one. Human table-football, anybody?

It'll never catch on: human table football

Of course many of these dubious competitive formats rightly end in ignominy after a few years, at most. But not all of our nation’s more “recherché” amusements are gimmicky, flash-in-the-pan affairs. The annual Cheese-Rolling on Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire, featured here in an earlier blog, has a history going back to at least 1826, and probably long before that; and the yearly Royal Shrovetide Football Match in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, dates from the 13th Century. Even Black Pudding-Throwing, a highlight(?) on the events calendar in Ramsbottom, Manchester, can trace its roots back to 1850.

Ashbourne's annual Royal Shrovetide Football Match

But one event surely eclipses them all, both in venerability and sheer spectacle, for participant and onlooker alike: the annual World Gurning Championships, held in mid-September every year as part of the Egremont Crab Fair, and dating back to 1267.

On the west Cumbrian coast, just a few miles from the western edge of the Lake District National Park, is the small market town of Egremont. Every year in mid to late September (this year’s takes place on Friday 14th – the free ‘Dancing in the Street’ music event on Egremont High Street – and Saturday 15th) the townspeople hold a celebration after harvest time, known as the Crab Fair – a mix of traditional entertainments and competitive events. It is believed that the fair – first staged in the 13th Century by Royal Decree – has been held every year, barring unavoidable interruptions during the war years.

The Parade of the Apple Cart. Note the airborne fruit!

The Lord of Egremont began the practice of giving away crab apples, whence derives the fair’s name. The tradition continues to this day with the Parade of the Apple Cart, where apples are thrown to the crowds which throng the Main Street – though these days the apples thus launched are of sweeter varieties. Including the Egremont Russet? One can only hope.

The modern-day fair includes with a number of sporting events.

“Climbing the Greasy Pole” kicks things off – as the name implies, the contest involves the ascent of a 30-foot pole, greased with lard. The objective is to climb to the top and retrieve the prize – originally a hat, now a side of mutton. These days ribbons are attached to the pole, which can be grabbed from lower levels and exchanged for gifts around the town.

Surely an easy challenge for a superhero? Spiderman contemplates Egremont's greasy pole

Cumberland wrestling also features, wherein each wrestler locks his hands behind his opponent's back – this is called takin’ hod (taking hold). The object is to lift your opponent up, then throw him to the ground so that he lands face upwards.

Cumberland wrestling

There’s also – unbelievably in this health-and-safety-obsessed day and age – a pipe-smoking contest, wherein each competitor is given a clay pipe filled with black twist tobacco and a lighted candle or taper. The person who smokes his tobacco the fastest is the winner.

Ready, set, smoke: pipe-lovers get down to business

Broadly, the Egremont Crab Fair divides its attractions and activities into two, entitled ‘Crab Field’ and ‘Crab Fest’. The former is an open-air arena-style show, including traditional sporting contests (those detailed above, plus others):

Above: racing fun at Crab field

and headlined by the Kangaroo Kid Quad Bike Stunt Show: jumps and other feats of derring-do performed on quad bikes. Think Evel Knievel, but on four wheels. The latter is a music-based event featuring top local bands on the main stage:

an acoustic tent, and loads of stuff for the kids to do.

But it’s the Gurning Championship, at 6pm on the Saturday, that’s the main event for many.

To gurn means to “snarl like a dog; look savage; distort the countenance” – but these days it’s much more about looking funny than looking threatening. Though “the uglier the better” is the main criterion for winning. The rules are simple: stick your head through a horse collar, known as a ‘braffin’; pull the most grotesque face you can muster; and the most monstrous/funny fizzog is the winner. The event is open to both genders, and all ages. Feast your eyes on these beauties:

Previous victors include Michaela Strachan (yes, that Michaela Strachan) pictured at top with Tommy Mattinson, who in recent years has made the title his own. He must be so proud...

Egremont is 27 miles south-west of Braithwaite, taking the B5292 (which, confusingly, heads north), the A66, the A5086 and the A595. Tickets valid for both Crab Fair venues – Crab Field and Crab Fest – cost £6 per adult, £3 per child aged five to 14; under-fives go free. ‘Dancing in the Street’, the music-and-dance event on Egremont High Street that acts as a curtain-raiser to Saturday’s activities, is free to all. To visit the Egremont Crab Fair website, click here.

 

Share this post:
Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

How can I find out more?

The Holiday Property Bond could do as much for your quality of life as it has done for many thousands of families who have already invested. That's why we invite you to get in touch with us in any of these 3 ways and please don't forget our unique 'Money back promise' and 'interest free loan' options.

Close

We're so confident you'll be delighted with HPB
that we offer you a 'Money Back Promise'!

In regular surveys, Bondholders tell us how happy they are with HPB holidays. That's why we feel confident in giving you the extra reassurance of our unprecedented 'Money Back Promise':

If you take your first HPB holiday within three years of investing and are not, for any reason, entirely happy, you can apply to cash in your HPB investment within 14 days of your return. Whatever the encashment value, the parent company of the issuer of HPB will make up any difference so that you get back the full amount of your original payment, including charges.

This offer applies to a holiday at any HPB owned property which is taken by at least one of the Bondholders themselves.

Full details of the offer will be provided before you invest.

Request our brochure Speak to a representative Visit an Open Day or Exhibition

Please request our fully
illustrated brochure

Please read "How HPB works" and then we will be delighted to send you our brochure, including our property portfolio, along with our full length DVD introduced by Bondholder Sue Barker and a list of forthcoming Open Days and Exhibitions. See the beautiful holiday homes and magnificent locations where you can spend your holidays as a Bondholder.

Please complete and submit the form or,
alternatively, telephone our FREE brochure request line on 0800 230 0391

Request a brochure
Title *  
First Name *  
Surname *  
Email address  
Postcode *  
Telephone number
How did you hear about us?

We will use the details you provide above to send you our detailed HPB brochure and keep you updated about HPB holiday offers.

SUBMIT SUBMIT
* Indicates required fields

You can speak to one of our representatives

Your local HPB representative will be happy to call or meet you at a convenient time and place for an informal chat. Simply fill in your details and we'll do the rest.

Most of our representatives are Bondholders themselves and all have visited a number of Bond sites.

The representative will give you all the information you need and then leave you to make up your own mind. He or she will talk to you about your holiday requirements and what level of investment is needed to secure the kind of holidays you want.

Title *  
First Name *  
Surname *  
Email address  
Telephone number *  
Post code
iBy giving us your post code we can find a representative near you.
How did you hear about us?
Your message

One of our representatives will contact you using the information above.

SUBMIT SUBMIT
* Indicates required fields

See our stunning properties
for yourself

Attending an Open Day at an HPB holiday location is an enjoyable way to see what HPB has to offer. Just turn up and stay as long as you wish – there is no need to make an appointment. The representatives will introduce themselves and answer your questions. You will also be invited to inspect the site and see HPB’s high standards for yourself.

Alternatively, you are welcome to attend one of our Exhibitions at a hotel near you. You can chat to one of our representatives, ask your questions and watch our complete DVD 'travelogue' of HPB locations.

VISIT AN OPEN DAY OR EXHIBITION

This advertisement is issued by HPB Management Limited ("HPBM") registered at HPB House, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EH. HPBM is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is the main UK agent and the property manager for HPB, issued by HPB Assurance Limited ("HPBA") registered in the Isle of Man and authorised by the Financial Services Authority there. The Trustee of HPB is HSBC Trustee (C.I.) Limited registered at HSBC House, Esplanade, St Helier, Jersey, JE1 1GT. The Securities Manager is Stanhope Capital LLP of 35 Portman Square, London, W1H 6LR.

Holders of policies issued by HPBA will not be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if the company becomes unable to meet its liabilities to them but Isle of Man compensation arrangements apply to new policies. No medical examination required. HPB is available exclusively through HPBM who will only charge for their services if you invest. HPBM promotes only HPB and is not independent of HPBA.

AS FEATURED IN The Telegraph BBC Daily Mail The Sunday Times