TENS of thousands of visitors packed into a market town’s cobbled streets this weekend for the biggest and best Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Festival yet.

Some 35,000 people are expected to have descended on the festival town for the Christmas celebration which spectacularly turns back the clock to the time of the great writer, Charles Dickens.

The elegant fashion of the Victoria era was on show in a fantastic costume parade, with gents in top hats and suits and ladies in bonnet and long corseted dresses. There were also scenes that would not be out of place in A Christmas Carol, with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit characters among the crowds.

The two-day spectacle has become an international celebration. South Cumbrian residents were joined by overseas visitors from places such as America, Russia and Ireland, and also people from across the UK, with numerous coach trips bringing families from various locations.

Festival-goers enjoyed warm roasted chestnuts, street entertainment, live music, a fun fair, artisan stalls and shopping in the town’s boutique shops.

The grand parade of those in Dickensian costume was led by Ulverston Town Band and featured Santa’s reindeer and a Queen Victoria.

The festival is organised by a committee of dedicated volunteers.

One of them, Jan Hancock, of Town House Ulverston, said: “This festival gets bigger and better every year, we are starting to outgrow ourselves.

“Attendance-wise it looks like it is going to be a record year. It has been very, very busy with visitors.

“This is the perfect start to Christmas, with the lights and the music. The town looks stunning and elegant.

“It tells people Ulverston is here and makes them aware to come back and visit us again.

“We are the festival town, and this is the pinnacle, it’s the biggest festival. Thank you to all festival volunteers.

“Congratulations to Gillian Nicholson who organises the entertainment, the entertainment has been absolutely first class, non-stop, varied and the crowds have responded so well. We have had three stages this year.

“We are getting a lot of great feedback, with people saying ‘what a great festival’.”

Mrs Hancock said the festival is funded through bucket donations, sales of mulled wine, tombola tickets and a small grant from Ulverston Town Council in order to put on the event next year.

Samantha Scotton and her 15-month-old son Jesse Scotton looked a picture in their outfits.

Mrs Scotton, of Walsall, West Midlands, attends the Dickensian every year while visiting family in Ulverston.

She said: “It’s a lovely environment and atmosphere, we like to wear the Victorian costume and you are welcomed so much by the town’s people, who are so friendly.

“It’s nice and busy, it’s great that it gets the support from people from everywhere.”

Ulverston mayor, Councillor Mark Wilson, said: “There is such a wide variety of stalls and entertainment. I’m very proud of all the hard work of the Dickensian Committee. It is a good opportunity for people to visit our town and shops.”

The royal lookalike of Queen Victoria judged the Dickensian costume competition. On Saturday she declared the winner of the best whiskers competition by asking the “the elegant and bushy faced man” to step forward.

This was Keith Waller, of Grange, a previous winner of the contest.

Mr Waller said it was a brilliant event, saying: “I love the Victorian era and the Victorian clothing.”

The festival also featured the countdown to the Christmas lights being switched on around the town.

Picture gallery: Ulverston Dickensian Festival 2016