Stow Fair May 2011
Still fashionable after 500 years
John Pockett - Vardo Artist & Historian
Stow this year fell on Thursday 12th May, which I was told by a fairground authority was historically both the correct day and date of the Fair.
On the whole the day was fine; there were one or two little showers but nothing of concern.
There didn't seem to be quite so many people as usual. Kenilworth Fair had been held a few weeks before, and it had been very well attended. Maybe this marred Stow slightly.
As far as I'm concerned, Stow is a real fair as it has a charter from 1476, whereas Kenilworth is a modern-day private enterprise.
There were many waggons this year, perhaps more than usual for the May Fair. All of them were of very fine quality, but there are never quite so many as in October.
Openlots are of course the most popular among travelling people.
I was particularly interested in this nice square tent and spoke to the little girl's father, who said he built it. A square tent is quite a difficult thing to build. You might be able to make the frame but it is certainly difficult to make the tent unless you are good with stitching and such.
They are also known as cottage tents because the shape is similar to a cottage. These tents have windows in them, and the older ones have a hole made through the tent to take a Queenie stove. This one didn't have a Queenie in it but it had a cooker and furniture and was a comfortable setup.
Also at the Fair was old Fred Walker's openlot, which he had for many years. It now belongs to his son and is a very fine openlot indeed. Fred (I'm afraid he is deceased now) always liked a good hostess stove in his waggon; he wouldn't put up with anything like a Queenie.
There was a very good little red openlot. It was certainly taking some interest as it was nicely built.
Some shetland ponies were near a good tall-wheeled bowtop, and some lovely horses with foals kept close to their horsebox.
An elderly travelling person who always goes to Stow came right over from Lowestoft this year. He always has a very good waggon, and he also brought his grinding barrow to the Fair.
This was a fine example of a Vickers trailer. You still see one or two of these trailers from the 1960s and 70s.
Two people that go to a lot of the fairs sell cart- and waggon- fittings. You can buy shafts and waggon steps and all the things you need to build a waggon. A very useful couple of stalls they are.
A new rage in the stalls at Stow and other fairs is the flamboyant furniture for travellers to buy.
I'm told it's Italian or Italian-style and is of course for their mobile homes. Only in the last few years has this furniture started to be shown on the stalls.
Tweed costumes also seem to be all the rage. The young people like to dress their children in such clothes. There was a young girl holding a little baby boy who was amazingly dressed in cap and tweed clothes.
On display a vardo and Romani way of life sadly all but now gone.
Article Text / images copyright
ValleyStream / John Pockett Collection 2011. "Well groomed" copyright ValleyStream 2006. Transcribed and edited by GypsyWaggons / UK Vardo Project.
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