Lobbing cups and saucers at the old Wigan pot fair

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane takes us on another stroll down memory lane to a time when crockery was literally flying off the shelves...
Pots about to go flying through the airPots about to go flying through the air
Pots about to go flying through the air

It’s a long, long time ago since we revelled in the delights of Wigan pot fair - in the days when it came to town alongside Silcock’s fair.

And who can forget the crowds that gathered six feet deep to watch the magic antics of the man selling whole dinner services … first throwing them up into the air and then lobbing them to his assistant many feet away.

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Thoughts of the “pot fair” came flooding back the other day when I glanced at the fairground being set up near Robin Park.

And I couldn’t help but feel a tad sad knowing that it was consigned to history years ago. And like the little arcade we’ll never see the likes of it again. In his great book “Growing up in Wigan” Joe Winstanley recalls the delight of listening to the salesman’s patter as he assembled cups and saucers, plates, bowls and other crockery on a large tray and then threw it all around ten feet to the waiting assistant.

And all the time he would be singing the praises of the full tea service, shouting “not three pounds, not two pounds, not even thirty bob…give me a pound”.

And the eager customers would push forward, cash in hand, and wait for the pots to be wrapped up in last week’s Observer.

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Let’s go from fairground pots to posh pots. Who remembers the elegant crockery shop opposite what used to be the side entrance to Debenham’s?

Their pots were the very stuff of dinner parties and if folks broke a piece of their expensive Crown Derby, they could send away for a replacement.

Nearby in Wigan Market Hall resided a huge crockery stall… layers and layers of the stuff and I often wondered just how they managed when customers wanted pieces from the seemingly inaccessible middle.

One elderly Wigan lady told me how they were poor as church mice and always got their cups in exchange for old clothes from the rag and bone man. Days of glamour to be sure…

But that’s another story altogether.