THE Whitsuntide holiday fell early in 1920, and post First World War, it proved to be very busy with Craven full to bursting with people making their way into the area from Leeds and Bradford, and also on their way through to the Lakes.

‘Lord John Sanger’ brought his famous ‘Sanger’s Circus’ to Skipton for two performances on the Whit Tuesday, May 25. The shows, at Bold Venture Field, introduced the ‘’latest novelties, sensational thrills, and marvels of this wonderful world’.

There was a ‘unique performance’ by ‘African snake charmers’, and a ‘daring troupe’ of ‘North American Indians’, as well as ‘human sea lions’ and a spectacular ‘grand Roman pyramid display’. Patrons were advised that ‘precisely the same performance had recently’ drawn all London, Glasgow and Liverpool’.

Skipton was ‘thronged with traffic and tourists’, reported the Craven Herald at the time. The days before the second holiday of the year had been wet, but Whitsuntide itself was summer like , encouraging people to ‘dash light heartedly into the new spirit of the hour’.

At a bound, Skipton sprang into the front rank of holiday inland centres, and ‘never perhaps within living memory have its unique claims upon the tourist been so fully supported.

“The quiet paced traffic which usually ebbs and flows along its streets was swollen beyond the limits of accurate computation. High Street, broad and accommodating as it is, lost its individuality in the flood of vehicles that continuously made its way out into the narrower streets which lead into the romantic narrower highways of Craven., reported the paper.

That’ self appointed monarch of the road’, the char-a-banc, came by the score,sometimes content to noisily to lumber through the town, but more frequently running onto the paved way and depositing for an hour’s respite its tired and travel-stained load. On Whit Monday and Whit Tuesday in particular, these vehicles came and went in looking, brightly coloured convoys. They carried mill operatives from the hearts of Lancashire and the heavy woollen areas of West Yorkshire into the sweet airs of the Dales and then whirled them back amid tornadoes of dust to the chimneys and smother and wealth of their beloved cities.

Motor cars from every workshop in the kingdom bumped or purred their way seemingly under the ‘aegis’ of the ‘chara’ moving in mass array through Skipton to deploy when they left it over the broad, rugged face of Craven.

Motor cyclists, those highly detached and most self contained of all highway personalities, crept warily through the town, performing miracles of steering as they wove a devious route through the traffic in all sides and announcing by sudden bursts of engine power what they could achieve once the road lay clear and straight before them.

On the Saturday, the townspeople were entertained to a period of highly organised traffic when the competitors in the big motorcycle reliability trials from London to Edinburgh passed through the town. The cyclists halted at Ilkley, after their long run from the capital , and resumed their journey at about 10am. One noticed as they passed through Skipton that the men were still the ‘knuts’ of pre war days, but that their trench boots, British warms, and aviation helmets, retrieved from the war, and the scars that some of them bore, told of the sterner experience of recent years. One gallant young fellow drove a big powered side car combination, though he was minus a leg.

Bolton Abbey and Woods were extra-ordinarily busy. The cool woods, full of flowers, formed a delightful retreat from the heat and dust of the roads and local carriage drivers, who had taken visitors to the Abbey and about the dales for 20 or 30 years, declared they had never seen it so busy.

During the weekend there was a large influx of visitors to Austwick and every available apartment was occupied. Several char-a-banc parties visited the village and special services were held in the Epiphany Church.

Numerous visitors went to Clapham and the vehicular traffic was particularly heavy. The Leeds Grammar School Boys held their annual camp at Crinabottom and a part of the Yorkshire Ramblers were observed in their old haunts around Gaping Gill.

A record quantity of road traffic passed along the Main Road at Long Preston. By 10am on the Sunday, 101 chars-a-banc passed over the bridge, where the roads converge from West Yorkshire and East Lancashire. These, together with the 350 machines in the motorcycle reliability trials, got safely past the angular entrances to the town.

All pictures reproduced by kind permission of the Ellwood family, Mrs V. Rowley, and North Yorkshire County Council, Skipton Library