Traffic stops at 11.55 am on Shrove Tuesday for the ladies of Olney to make their annual 415 yard dash from the Market Place to Church. Participants, housewives or young ladies of the town, must wear the traditional costume of a housewife, including a skirt, apron and head covering and they must of course carry a frying pan containing a pancake.
Under orders from the Starter, pancakes are tossed just prior to the starting signal, and only then after a flippin’ quick dash to the finishing line, is the winner again required to toss her pancake, before being declared the winner and greeted with a kiss from the Verger. All who finish the course are then expected to attend the Shriving Service which follows in the Parish Church, during which official Olney and Liberal prizes are presented.
Dating back more than five hundred years, no one is quite certain how the world famous race originated, but the most widely accepted story tells of a harassed housewife, hearing the shriving bell, dashing off to the Church still clutching her frying pan containing a pancake.