Fig Pie Wakes.
Wakes or public celebrations were in evidence in this country before the arrival of Christianity, however in later times these celebrations became attached to the church. This was the case at Wybunbury in the county of Cheshire where the celebration of St Chad at the appropriately named St Chad’s church was held on the 2nd of March with the Wake taking place over the following days.
In the past St Chad’s church must have been very impressive holding up to 1600 people, unfortunately the people responsible for building it sited it on unstable ground which caused it to suffer from subsidence, for this reason the main part of the church was demolished in the 1970s which just left the still impressive 120ft tower of the church. However if you do pay Wybunbury a visit you will notice that the tower now suffers through subsidence as it now leans to one side similar to the leaning tower of Pisa!
Returning once more to the Wakes, over the years the religious festival degenerated into a fair and market with singing and dancing, games and racing. A surviving poster from 1819 shows several events including a run in which a person could win a new saddle and bridle.
In Wynbubury it is said that in the past Fig pies were baked and rolled down Swan Bank which I presume is the hill outside the church and the Swan public house and it is said that the person whose pie reached the bottom first would win a prize, it is also said that pies were flung from the top of the tower, I assume that the person’s pie that travelled the furthest would also win something.
Due to the rowdiness of the Wakes which included drinking and eating the church wanted to distance themselves from the event. Men charged with horse stealing would plead that they were at the Wybunbury Wakes at the time of the theft, things came to a head when a brawl ended up as a murder at the Boars Head at Waigherton in 1880, due to this the Wakes started to lose their popularity until by the 1920s they had all but died out.
These days the Wakes have undergone something of a revival and the “Wybunbury Fig Pie Wakes” have once again become a popular village attraction now being held in early June. The pies are baked to a traditional family recipe handed down from 97 year old Dorothy Wharton who was still able to remember the original Wakes which ended back in the 1920s.