The Olney World Famous Pancake Race

No one really knows the origins of the world famous Pancake Race at Olney, but it is a long and loved tradition in the town.  

Within the Museum collection are two hand bells.  One is fragile and retired but the other still rings out loudly to start the race.

This is the retired Pancake Bell, sometimes known as the Town Crier bell.  You can see that it was an early  addition to the collection as it can be seen in this early photographic postcard of the Parlour. (Click on the image to get an enlarged view)

Olney did have a town crier: The Poor Laws record that in the 1780’s John Swain, Town Cryer, was paid 4d (2p) every time he did a Cry. The Parish Registers also record that John Swain ‘Crier’ was buried on 14th April 1794. 

Another link we have to the Pancake Race within the Museum collection is this little booklet.  The images shown here are from a reprint for the Museum in 1980.

The original poem was published as a separate poem  in a series but also in the book ‘ Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire Ballads‘. It was written by Thomas Wright and illustrated by Wilfred Pippet.

Other poems bear the titles: ‘ Leather, and Thread and  Tears‘,  and ‘Hip, hip, hurray or the Young Lady Who Would Wear Lace’

Thomas Wright

If you click on the images below, they will enlarge for you.

Further Reading and Links

A Tribute to Thomas Wright: an article from the Olney & District History Society

You might also be interested in...

Honouring the Hares

Cowper’s three hares – Puss, Tiney and Bess – soon became an integral part of his life story and have remained so. Two of the earliest representations of them appear on a three-seal fob and a snuff box, both on display in the museum. The seal fob dates from the

Read More »

At The Museum

A Peek Inside Orchard Side House

Take a peek inside Orchard Side House as we begin to unveil some of our hidden secrets. Visit the ‘Welcome’ page for a short guide to the other delights we have in store for you during your visit.

Read More »

The Three Hares Art Gallery

The Three Hares Gallery is located on the top floor of the Museum building and holds monthly exhibitions, it is now in a bigger, brighter space with state of the art CCTV security and direct stair access from our Shop.  Since 2007 our exhibitions have included artists who work in watercolours, acrylics, oils, pastels, drawings,

Read More »

Flower & Summer House Gardens

Visit our tranquil & historic Gardens. William Cowper was an innovative gardener at a time when seeds & plants were arriving from North America. Find out more here, including a plan of the gardens.

Read More »

Related Articles

Early Chinese Wallpaper from a House in Olney

Here we look at a decorative item dating from the early 1700s.  A few years ago, two sheets of wallpaper were brought into the museum, from a house on the Market Place, only a few doors away.  They are a marvellous and rare find – paper hangings such as these are fragile and do not

Read More »

The Olney Militia

During the 18th century the regular army was constantly under strain from actions abroad such as the wars in North America and combatting Napoleon’s expansion plans in Europe. It became the role of the Militia to defend the Kingdom from invasion and release army units for service abroad. Their role also included keeping the peace

Read More »

Poor Laws – The Roundsman System

Within the Poor Laws records in the Museum Archive there is also a small book which gives insights into the Roundsman system of poor relief. Appointment of Overseers 1783 There have always been poor people who needed help or charity to survive. Before King Henry VIII seized all the monasteries in England in the 1540’s,

Read More »
Category filter
Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00

Book Museum Tickets

Our Museum building remains CLOSED.  We are opening our gardens on limited entry.  The Cowper & Newton Museum gardens will be open to welcome you on Wednesday 5th August 10.30 – 12.15 and Saturday 8th August 10.30 – 12.15

(Follow our social media accounts or check back here for further opening days & times as they become available)