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