MUCH as we all love our summer holidays today it’s nothing compared to the excitement that used to surround the annual wakes weeks.

Initially the mills around East Lancashire would close down for annual maintenance allowing the thousands of people who worked in them the opportunity to have a week’s holiday - unpaid, of course. It wasn’t until the 1940s that paid holidays became more common

Town’s across East Lancashire would have different weeks during the summer when they would become virtual ghost towns. Special trains and coaches were laid on to take families to the coast with Blackpool being the number one destination.

To help pay for their holidays workers would often be part of savings clubs putting a small amount away each week.

At the start of the wakes weeks it was not unusual for 40 or 50 trains a day to leave Blackburn, Burnley and Accrington stations, packed with excited youngsters and anxious parents.

It was as though entire communities had just been transplanted to the seaside with families from the same street often staying in boarding houses next to each other. The landladies who ran these establishments often had a fearsome reputation and would stand for no nonsense on their premises and some would even charge extra for ‘use of cruet’.

The wakes weeks holidays both before and just after the war were also a time to dress in your finery and try to impress. Families would parade along the promenade taking in the air. Given the conditions in the mills particularly during the turn of the 20th century, it is easy to understand why workers would look forward to breathing in the sea air.

The wakes weeks tradition is now little more than a memory although older residents will still refer to a particular week as being Burnley or Accrington wakes.