Wakes were originally religious festivals that commemorated church dedications, although in Derbyshire at least it is commonly held that it dates back to pagan times. During the Industrial Revolution the tradition of the wakes was adapted into a regular summer holiday particularly, but not exclusively, in the north of England and industrialised areas of the Midlands where each locality would nominate a wakes week during which the local factories, collieries and other industries would close for a week. The wakes holiday started as an unpaid holiday when the mills and factories were closed for maintenance. In 1906 an agreement on unpaid holidays was reached which became the pattern for the wakes holidays in Lancashire mill towns. It was implemented in 1907. The expansion of the railway network led Blackpool to become a seaside resort catering mainly for the Lancashire working classes. Southport catered for the slightly better off and Morecambe attracted visitors from the West Riding textile towns.
There is a merry, happy time,
To grace withal this simple ryhme:
There is jovial, joyous hour,
Of mirth and jollitty in store:
The Wakes! The Wakes!
The jocund wakes!
My wandering memory now forsakes
The present busy scene of things,
Erratic upon Fancy's wings,
For olden times, with garlands crown'd
And rush-carts green on many a mound.
In hamlets bearing a great name,
The first in astronomic fame.
— From The Village Festival by Droylsden poet Elijah Ridings.
Present day 
The tradition continues in some parts of England, although its significance has declined. It was commonplace for local authorities to allocate a one week school holiday to coincide with wakes week in lieu of holiday time elsewhere in the year. Schools began to discontinue the wakes week holiday after the introduction of the National Curriculum and the standardisation of school holidays across England. The TV series 'Arena' made a documentary, 'Blackpool Wakes' in 1989, which featured people in the resort and their memories and recollections of the Wakes heyday.
In the Peak District of Derbyshire, in villages such as Eyam and Tideswell, there is a strong tradition of Wakes. In Tideswell it is associated with the (Christian) festival of St John the Baptist, although local lore suggests that it originated in the pagan celebration of the summer solstice. In Tideswell, a week of celebration involving house-dressing, pub pastimes and feasts culminates in "Big Saturday" with a daytime fancy dress procession. At night a torchlight procession is led by a brass band and many of the participants join in a traditional weaving dance. During the Wakes Week well dressings are displayed in the town.
- Fowler 2003, p. 63
- McDonald, Bill & Karen (2002). "Droylsden Poets". The McDonal family homepage. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
- "Final Wakes Week marks end of an era" Craven Herald & Pioneer article
- Arena - Blackpool Wakes
- Anon. "Tideswell wakes festivities". Tideswell Wakes Committee. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
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