Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive history of the Whit Walks, I thought I best provide a bit more context for the posts in this blog. There are a few more comprehensive overviews out there I would recommend Canon Jim Burns’ book if you can get hold of a copy as the most interesting overview complete with personal reflections from people who have walked over the years (available in Manchester Central Library). I do intend to try and develop a fuller explanation – we have gathered over 200 years of news archives related to the Whit Walks in Manchester which we are in the process of making sense of. Below is work that is pretty much pasted from a conference paper I delivered so is a really condensed explanation! Here is a picture of my Grandma doing the Whit Walks in Denton (South-East-ish of Manchester)….
During the beginnings of industrialisation in Lancashire, the Whitsun holiday was seen as one of the most important times of the working classes calendar (Fielding, 1989). The Walks were traditionally undertaken on Whit Friday for the Catholic churches and Whit Monday for the Anglican churches during the religious festival of Pentecost. Pentecost celebrates the decent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as described in The Act of the Apostles in the New Testament. Fielding states that the first Anglican walk took place in Manchester in 1801 with the Catholics following the tradition by 1844 (Fielding, 1989).