So, I actually think I’m one of the luckiest people, to have been born and bred in such a beautiful place as Warwick!
It’s true what they say, you can take the girl out of Warwick, but you can’t take Warwick out of the girl!
I know I am probably going to be accused of seeing my home town in rose coloured specs, but the thousands of tourists that visit it every year, must prove something !
Now when I say I’m a Warwick girl, I really am!
I was born in my parents bedroom, which looked out onto the Lord Leycester Hospital! My bedroom was on the back, facing the garden! Behind our garden wall was Warwick Castle! It doesn’t get more Warwick than that!
Growing up, I have so many fond memories! I’ve never taken any of it for granted. That’s probably why, I found it so hard to move 8 miles out of town 2.5 years ago!
Yes it has changed a lot over the years. There are a lot more houses for one, but the foundation of Warwick is still there!
So what makes it so so special ? Where do I start?
- Warwick Castle
- St Mary’s Church
- Lord Leycester Hospital
- Mill Street Garden
- St Nicholas Park
- Warwick Racecourse
- River Avon
- Great canal walks
- The town centre
- The Mop
I used to also love the dolls museum, which is now integrated into the Military museum in St Johns.
My grandfather was the Verger at St Paul’s Church, and my grandmother, and later my uncle the church wardens. Myself and my 2 brothers were members of the church choir, with my brother making head boy and I head girl.
We attended choir practice twice a week, and 2 Sunday services, plus weddings etc.
7 of my mothers brothers, were also active members of the local St John’s Ambulance, as was I. We would cover many local events such as the race meetings, fetes and charity events.
My grandfather and father were involved in building the bumper cars and ghost trains, that were used at the mop, as well as the helter skelter and some other ride at St Nicholas Park.
So as you can see, my family were all part of the foundation of Warwick in the past, which is probably why it runs through my veins.
As a child, the most visited places for us were the racecourse and the park!
The racecourse was just a few minutes walk away. As we had a dog, it was the perfect place to go for daily walks. I rode my bike around it, and even learnt to drive a car on some land next to it. Sadly that land is now flats!
On race days, we would go down for the last race, when it was free! We used to collect left over glasses. If you were lucky you might even find the odd £1 note on the grass! Accidentally thrown away by someone along with their betting slip!
We used to do our cross country running around the race track at school too!
St Nicholas park was where we spent most of our 6 weeks holiday during the summer when we weren’t away. I don’t know about you, but I only ever remember hot summers back then!
There was an open air paddling pool in the middle. Mum would pack a picnic and off we would go for the day!
I remember just playing and enjoying the outdoors in beautiful weather.
As we lived so close to the castle, we often would walk through the outside of the grounds ! I’d never actually been into it until I worked there!
I was so over the moon to land my first full time job there! It was in the offices and accounts department. We were based just next to the main ‘apartments’.
It was the foundation to who I am now! In those days, everyone who was senior were known as Mr, Miss or Mrs. There was no way I’d acknowledge them by their first names !
I was also made very aware of the importance of talking ‘properly ‘! Thankfully I think I pronounced most words correctly ! In particular ensuring you put an ‘r’ in words like castle, path, grass etc!
One of my fondest memories is Mop time ! Most people outside of the area have never heard of the Mop!
It’s basically a travelling fair, which comes to Warwick for 2 weekends around 12th October every year!
Where we lived at the top of a hill, I could sit in the bay window, and watch all the lorries moving from their temporary home on the racecourse, up to the town centre to assemble their rides!
I remember shouting excitedly to my parents as I watched the ghost train, bumper cars, waltzers etc go up! I couldn’t wait to go up and see them!
I probably have an even greater passion as both my grandfather, and father built ghost trains and bumper car rides !
The first weekend, the Mop was opened by the Lord Mayor at 12 noon on the Saturday. It would run until 10.30/11.00 pm. There was always a pig roast around by the Globe Hotel!
The second week the Mop was open Friday and Saturday from lunch time until about 10.30/11.00 pm. This was called the ‘Runaway Mop’!
We used to save our pocket money, and I also remember my grandparents giving us extra.
We would go up as a family early evening, with our pennies in our purses! Eyes wide open !
I remember the smells like it was yesterday ! Candy floss, toffee apples, hot dogs and burgers ! Even the diesel smelt good from the generators!
Then there was the noises of the rides, and children’s laughter, adults screening as some of the bigger rides went faster and higher! Multi coloured lights and music filled the air! It was a time of pure joy!
Everyone always seemed happy when you walked around ! It seemed to always dry and crisp too !
We would walk around wondering how to spend our money ? The ‘hook a duck’ was always a good one, as you were always guaranteed a prize! In those days you could win goldfish ! Now I know why we had a pond in our garden !!
There were also amusement arcades! My favourite then, and now is still the machine that forms the t.v programme ‘Tipping Point’. In my day though it was pennies or 2p!
Now a days it’s all changed! The rides are bigger and more expensive ! They still have a few old favourites though, such as ‘hook a duck’. You still get the same smells and noises!
To me it’s still magical. It’s been part of Warwick for so long, I hope it never stops !
The History of the Mop
The tradition of Warwick Mop, goes back as far as King Edward III, when he granted a legal charter that it be held in the town centre! This was a time when even the Castle, as it stands now was still being built, and certainly before Lord Leycester was even a twinkle in his daddies eye!
The date is believed to be linked to when harvesting was done, with Stratford Upon Avon having the Mop on the 12th!
So for those of us who think it’s a modern thing, and to some a nuisance, it is steeped in over 700 years of history!
It is said that the first Mops were set up for hiring labourers, and for employers to meet and have fun!
In those days it was different types of stalls, rather than the big rides you associate with fairs today!
Workers would be hired on a trial basis. The runaway Mop, the second weekend, gets its name from the fact that either the employer, or worker, could back out of the arrangement they had made!
The money they earned during that week was then spent on the stalls, or for some, the pub!
No-one really knows for sure where the word ‘Mop’ came from, however it is thought to be linked to a symbol worn by labourers.
The pig roast, or ox as it also was then, provided food as well as warmth. Whilst we still have this tradition now, the money raised is passed on to charities!
Rides came along later with the industrial revolution, as has continued to evolve. In the early days, it would have been peddle power! Now they are so sophisticated.
I for one think it’s important that we keep these traditions alive for generations to come !
The next Mop in Warwick is 19/20 & 26/27 October!
Go along and support it if you can! Even if you don’t like the ride, (I’m not a fan), walk around, listen to the sounds, smell the air and soak in the atmosphere. Let it take you back over 700 years to a different time. Ultimately, the purpose of having fun is still there! So open your mind and enjoy it.