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Burnsall Feast Sports

History of Burnsall Feast Sports

It is impossible to reliably trace Burnsall Feast Sports back to their origin, for the history of such events is invariably dependent on hearsay. But it is known that, even prior to the Elizabethan period, celebrations of some kind occurred on the Village Green to mark the beginning of preparations for the Feast of St Wilfred.

This falls on the first Sunday after October the 12th and preparations began three months beforehand. Up to the latter part of the last century, the following week was recognised as the Burnsall Feast week. Since that time the Sports have been held on the first Saturday after the first Sunday after the 12th of August.

As a spectacle, the scene has no equal. The bridge parapet is thronged with spectators: The Green a hive of activity; children's and ladies races; various children's rides; game birds and vintage cars on show; tombola; raffles; guessing the weight of a sheep; pet show; children's fancy dress and Punch and Judy. All staffed with volunteers who have two aims in mind - to preserve our heritage and, to raise funds for the upkeep of The Village Green, and local charities that require support.

The Fell Race is of course, the major event, and has a long tradition. It has a proven lineage back to around 1870. A group of villagers are supposed to have discussed the idea in the Red Lion. The upshot of it was that Tom Weston a well known local character tested the course one moonlit night and ran it naked. The race then became an annual fixture, the first report of it appearing in the Craven Herald in 1882.

Perhaps the most famous race occurred in 1910 when E.H. Dazell the legendary Lakeland runner, established his classic record of 12mins 59.8 secs. For many years this time was controversial. It shouldn't have been. The writer was privileged to hear, over the years, the views of the then secretary, the late Robert Smith, the late Norman Clarke, my grandfather and all were of the opinion that he seemed to attack a few wild and breathtaking strides to the pasture wall. His descent time of 2mins 42secs gives credence to their views. Dalzells time stood until 1977 when the well known professional runner, Fred Reeves, did the course in 12mins 48secs. An amateur runner J.R.Wilde also did a time of 12mins 48secs, in 1983 but these are the only two to better Dalzells epic feat.

The day now ends with the Presentation of the prizes, then the Blessing by the Burnsall Rector and the playing of the hymn 'Jesus shall reign' by the Brass Band who have entertained us during the afternoon. With the increase in the number of competitors taking part in the Fell and Ten Mile races - Burnsall Feast Sports - Four centuries old, seems set to continue for a long time to come. 

Based on notes of H.Mortimer Batten.