Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage

Braithwell & Micklebring - Wheelbarrow Races


This annual event, on the first Thursday in July, is an established part of village life with an increasing number of younger participants which is interesting considering that it originally started as a bet in a pub over pints!

Wheelbarrow history from Diamond Jubillee Brochure_2012_courtesy of Michael Pawson & Wheelbarrow Race committee.jpg

Brief history of the Wheelbarrow Races from 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations brochure - Courtesy of Michael Pawson


The excerpt on the right taken from the 2012 Diamond Jubilee brochure, explains in the words of the Wheelbarrow Race committee, how the races started.


Arnold Pawson says – when the race started he was 19-20 years old at the time and ran with Dennis; they also won the race in the second year – with 6 out of 7 wins over the following events. The race dropped off for a while after the 1953 start. After the first couple of years Arnold started running with school friend Malcolm Hale, who took over from Dennis. Arnold comments  - “To begin with we had various tasks that were introduced as part of the race like filling a bottle with an egg cup.” 

Arnold remembers that they went over to Belton, who started racing a couple of years before Braithwell, and ran there as well. He remembered once in Braithwell passing Dennis Hall and Bill Green, near the church, and they shouted out “throw us over the church yard wall and we’ll die.” 

In the days before modern trainers, Arnold remembers that he first ran in some shoes with spikes and his Father said “you’ll split you legs to pieces.” Later he had black pumps that hit the ground hard. 

Arnold Pawson with Dennis Dunstan won the first race in 1953 and many know the famous picture of Dennis (in the barrow) and Arnold (pushing) running in this race shown below.  In front is Allen Smith, running, who also remembers the race well, and in the barrow is a visitor to the village who just got asked to run on the day – does anyone know who he is?  It looks like Arnold and Dennis are about to overtake Allen and his companion. 

02_Wheelbarrow_Races_Alan_Smith in front running and Arnold Pawson and Dennis Dunstan behind_1953.jpg

1953 - Allen Smith running with unknown visitor in the barrow and behind Arnold Pawson running and Dennis Dunstan in the barrow 

Richard Pawson – in the first race, in 1953, the first drink stop was at the butchers arms with ½ a pint of beer then up to the Plough at Micklebring for another ½ a beer then back to the bottom of the High street. The race now starts at the Village pump.

The men’s race has always been to the Plough at Micklebring but womens race was to Coopers Farm and back. 

Over the years there has been much debate about the actual barrows used. To begin with it was an ordinary garden barrow, with some changes to the wheel.  Some would run the race with a made up front on it but couldn’t drop the barrow because it had no legs. Soon public opinion didn’t go well about the many kinds of barrows used so the village (wheelbarrow race committee) bought 26 light weight garden barrows, with sponsorship, so all used the same type of barrow. 

The rules say that there has to be someone in the barrow at all times. But lots of fun happens in the changeovers! Arnold says that he and his companion always went out of the barrow on the left and in on the right side -  drop the barrow and change over as quick as possible with a bit of skid of the barrow as you go. 

In recent years the race has become very popular with junior competitors with 50 kids running in the last year (2019) and there now has to be two races to accommodate the enthusiastic youngsters. 

Over the years there has been many side attractions with a fair and tug of war in the paddock next to Hall Farm (now with two houses on). There’s always some food and still plenty of beer!

We are hoping in the future to show a list of results from the years, if we can, with help from Michael and wheelbarrow race committee


 Click - Here to Link to the Wheelbarrow Races Picture Archive


Some comments on wheelbarrow race courtesy of Village Facebook page:-

Rob Stevens – If I remember right they used to have a drink outside Coopers Farm near where I used to live. Then they cut that one out later on.

John Evans – Races I ran in were mainly 2 beer stops, later reduced to one at Plough: 1st stop Coopers Farm then one year someone had the bright idea to have first beer stop opposite Butchers. Too close to start – congestion. Someone ran into my leg with a barrow. I limped round to finish, partnering Stan Newsome at time I think.

Dean Mackintosh - (on picture above) Uncle Den indicating for overtaking manoeuvres.

The Wheelbarrow Race at The Cross -  1953


The Advertiser article_June 2003_commemorating Wheelbarrow races.jpg

The Advertiser article  - 27th June 2003