Appleby Fair 2010
Good Waggons and Fine Weather
John Pockett - Vardo Artist & Historian - roaming Appleby June 2010
This year’s Fair was held earlier than usual, with pulling-on day from 4am Thursday 3rd June. In recent years the Fair is in full swing by the Friday Saturday Sunday, but the original Fair Day was always held on the second Wednesday of June. This year the weather was kind, and most days were very warm and sunny.
The Fair is under a three year plan by the police and council. This was the second year, and they hoped to get things much more under control, which was seen in a number of ways.
As I approached from Kirkby Lonsdale all the road verges which had enough room to park motors or horse vehicles on had been fenced, and all laybys had large blocks of stones stopping people pulling on. One lot of horse-drawn travellers had managed to pull their wagons in between the stones. Of course motors and trailers could not manage this.
But a field the other side of Sedbergh had been allotted before and after the Fair for travellers free of charge, and I was told the same would be at the other end of Appleby for travellers coming over from the north east, Newcastle upon Tyne area. The day I went up, Wednesday, there was a large township of travellers up on the Fells waiting to move on to the Fair Thursday morning.
The police seemed to be friendly and on the side of the horse-drawn people, but like the Fair in 2009 they were much harsher towards the people at the Fair. All pubs bar one were closed in the town. This one had a plywood barrier mounted on the pavement outside, and I was told anybody drinking outside this barrier would be fined. I saw police confiscating alcohol from anybody in the street. And the pub was so busy it would have taken so long to get a drink it was hardly worth trying.
On Sunday this led to a gathering of many people protesting against the police for harassment and prejudice. This included Billy Welch talking of travellers’ rights. Large crowds were in the town as well as many police, and TV cameras were in force - all holding up the traffic.
Then, to demonstrate, the protesters ran a whole herd of loose horses and people in horses and carts in front of the police station. Luckily the police kept a low profile, and the demonstration ended in no violence and was peaceful.
There were two stage fights. It seems the done thing is to have them at the fairs so people can carry out their grievances. I saw the start of one, but the police got involved and stopped it, however I believe it was continued later in the evening. Other than that, I think the Fair carried out fairly well, without too many problems at all.
As I've said, the weather was very fine for the weekend, and many visitors turned up. Coachloads! From Hereford district alone there were three coaches, so one can imagine the amount of people that would come to the Fair at the weekend. It was very very busy.
I think that on Gallows Hill, which is where most people stop and where the Fair is held, there weren’t quite so many motors and trailers or so many people staying. Maybe they had already heard about the difficulty of pulling in. In some ways it was better that there were less people as often it’s so busy and everyone so close to each other that it’s not pleasant.
But the good news was that there were many very nice horse-drawn vehicles, lots of living vans and lovely drays. Flat carts seemed to be coming in popular again, which is good as I’m not really very fond of horse-drawn exercise carts. A waggon of Jowett’s was at the Fair - a very richly decorated, new openlot.
A fine row of bowtops were in the field next to the market. There’s always a lot bowtops in a row in this field but there were more than ever this year.
There was an original bowtop from R W Hodgson of Halifax. A very beautiful waggon. This firm only built a few.
Fred Walker’s old openlot, which he had for many years, was great to see. Fred died a couple of years ago. I think it’s the first time it’s been on the Fair, and it was brought up by one of his sons.
A beautiful wagon, it has had a touch-up and varnish from Yorkie Greenwood in recent years.
There was a pot waggon built by Jowett with a wagon body on it. These pot waggons were mainly built by Bill Wright in days gone by. They were very ornate affairs and were used for selling and hawking crockery pots.
Next a magnificent horse with openlot owned for many years by a travelling gent who comes every year.
I've been involved with this wagon because builder Dave Peters of Preston asked me to paint it when just a dray, and then he built on the top.
An interesting squarebow lined up beside two other waggons.
I noticed an openlot and dray with dog kennels to the front. Some dog kennels are now being made in the shape of bowtops for the little dogs which travellers admire today.
In the nicer part of the market, selling things to do with horses, wagons and travellers, a chap who goes up every year had a tremendous amount of harness which he threw on the ground for people to sort through. There was a halfsize Gypsy caravan for children for sale but I don’t think it was on his stall. There were also a lot of stalls with nothing to do with the Fair, which a lot of people grumble about, and Trading Standards officers were shutting down stalls if they were selling counterfeit goods.
The Fair was about over by Monday morning, which seems to be the trend now. The original Fair Day, as I've said, is the second Wednesday in June, and by that time I was told there was nobody left at all. A great shame.
It’s not good that the original dates are not being kept because it gives the authorities more of a chance to close down the Fair by saying it's not keeping to the correct dates.
Afterwards I spoke to some travellers I’d bought a waggon from last year at the Fair but whom I didn’t see there this year. They said they came over but didn’t stop, the Fair’s ruined, and all the authorities want to do is close it down.
Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but I think there is a problem and just hope that things can be sorted out.
Text / images copyright John Pockett 2010
except Fred Walker copyright Denis E. Harvey.
Transcribed and edited by GypsyWaggons / UK Vardo Project.
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