Stow Fair October 2008
Stow Fair is held twice a year, in May and October. This year May was a total wash-out, and the ground turned into a mudbath! Masses of people left early, and sadly the Fair was not a success.
The autumn Fair is always held on the nearest Thursday to 24th October, which this year was the 23rd.
Stow is a traditional horse fair with its own charter. It's a great meeting point for travelling people, and many turn up for the day for shopping and horse-dealing.
When I first used to go, in the 1970s, it was based at the other end of the township. The auctioneers used to sell the horses and tack on the roadsides, with the stalls on the field opposite. Few people stopped on then.
Now it's held at the other end of town on waste ground. Two travellers hold this land and charge a rental to pull on to the Fair.
Until recently travellers were allowed to stop on the roadside, and friends of mine used to travel up from Dorset and stop at the same special place every year. But very recently ditches were dug all along the road so that no-one could stop there. A great pity.
The October Fair was lucky with the weather, although the forecast was for heavy rainfall and strong winds, so there weren't as many people as in May.
There were a number of stalls selling traveller paraphernalia, such as children's clothing, footwear, beautiful crown derby, and DVDs. All very much for the modern traveller, many of whom live in houses these days.
The livestock was mainly horses, which were for sale in the bottom end of the field. This horse box was for sale or part-exchange too! There was a lot of interest in the horses, and a big crowd around them, although I didn't see any deals going on.
Also there were stalls selling chickens, cockerels, gamebirds, puppies and rabbits.
Many years ago there were fewer waggons, but they were horsed to the Fair. These days people come with their waggons on low loaders. They stop in the lanes beforehand, especially in May, for a number of weeks and get nearer and nearer to Stow.
If they pull on to the field earlier than Sunday they get fined. On Monday and Tuesday the Fair is there but the stalls aren't ready yet.
This year I counted about 11 waggons all told, many of good quality. All were on wooden wheels, and nearly all openlots - these are favoured by travellers. There was an interesting square bow.
People don't understand how they can keep warm with a canvas front on the waggon, but with a good stove going inside they're warm enough.
There was also a very fine openlot with unusual carvings.
This was painted by Yorkie Greenwood and Son, as was signed on the kettlebox. It must have been quite a task gilding the carvings.
An early Bill Wright copy was on the field, and it was the only tall-wheeled bowtop.
This waggon always seems to come here and is owned by well known travellers.
It was nice to see an old door-and-window van that had been saved and varnished over.
The original paintwork was quite naive, with scrolls and horses' heads.
The paint was in its last days, and the waggon was pretty rough really. The repaired wooden wheels had been varnished over, and they seemed quite strange with a natural wooden finish.
Geoff Smith of Kent painted this red openlot with some intricate scrollwork.
Quite a few of the waggons were for sale at the Fair, as was this one.
There was a large police presence in the town and at the Fair, but there didn't seem to be any problems, and I wondered why it was necessary.
The Fair was judged a success and turned out to be a very good social day out.
Recording / images copyright John Pockett 2008.
Transcribed / edited Gill Clarke.
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