Hainault Forest Website

Written, Designed and with Photographs by Brian Ecott

Fairlop Fair

 

Old Day and his friends enjoy a beanfeast beneath the Fairlop Oak. Bacon and beans were supplied by  "The Maypole".

In the 1720's Daniel Day inherited some property near Fairlop and with some friends collected the rents annually on the first Friday in July. He arranged for a feast of bacon and beans to be sent from "The Maypole" then sited where the Fullwell Cross Health Centre is today, and he and his friends enjoyed a beanfeast under the ancient Fairlop Oak. By 1725 others joined in and the gathering took on the appearance of a Fair, with sales of gingerbread men, toys, ribbons, together with puppets, circus acrobats, wild beasts and other entertainments. It was said to be most respectable and well regulated, but by 1736 prosecution of stallholders for gaming and illegal sales of liquor took place.

Day who felt most at home on the river, had been involved in several accidents when travelling by horse, mule, and  coach, so he put wheels on a boat and with a team of horses to pull it, he travelled to the Fair in style accompanied by a band of musicians. In the 1750's over 100,000 people attended the Fair from all over London. In 1765 the local constabulary reported that "a great number of people meet in a riotous and tumultuous manner .selling ale and spirituous liquors and keeping tippling booths and gaming tables to the great encouragement of vice and immorality. In 1793 the Fair was banned, but carried on again the following year.

MASTHEAD OF THE FAIRLOP FRIGATE

  Height 359mm (15 inches)

Photo of exhibit at Valence House Museum, Dagenham.

With thanks to Valence House Museum

The Fairlop  "Frigate" from the

Illustrated London News,  July 15 1843.

A few years before Day's death in 1767 age 84 a huge branch fell off the Fairlop Oak and Day took it as an omen of his forthcoming death. He had the limb fashioned into a coffin. Day had asked to be buried under the Fairlop Oak but his request was not carried out and he was buried in Barking Churchyard in which parish the Oak was to be found. His headstone is still to be seen today.

The Fair continued for another 100 years or more, despite the loss of The Oak in 1820 and disafforestation in 1851 when 3000 acres of  the Kings wood were grubbed up and turned into farmland.

Inscription "Fairlop Fair" can just be made out.

 

On one face the inscription when the stone was erected read:

Here lieth Interr'd the Body of

Mr DANIEL DAY Block & Pump

Maker late of the Parish of St.

John's WAPPING; who departed

this life October the 19th 1767

Age 84 years.

Death From the World hath set me free

From all my Pain and Mesery. [sic]

Daniel Day's gravestone on the right, at St. Margaret's, Barking. In a good light his name and Fairlop Fair can still be deciphered.

One of the earliest pictures of the Fair is by S H Grimm 1774, and another by Thomas Rowlandson 1815 are to be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Other accounts and pictures are to be found in editions of the Illustrated London News, and in local newspapers. A scrapbook of Fairlop Fair can be seen at Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow.  In 1829 Constables Dorwood and Fox from Woodford gave a lad sixpence to mind two police horses, returning to discover that the boy and the horses had disappeared. In the same year 17 persons were fined at Lambeth St. 5 with 8s 6d (43p) costs for taking passengers to Fairlop Fair without numbers and plates on their vehicles. This year and the following the Fair was a washout due to heavy rains and flooding. In 1839 The Religious Tract Society counted 108 drinking booths and 72 gaming tables. Over 200,000 were attending, and Pea and Thimble riggers operated together with pickpockets and horse stealers. In 1844 Harriet Milward violently arguing with her husband, whip in hand, startled her horses into a gallop, fell between the shafts and was run down and killed by them. She was laid on the green sward and a doctor from Chigwell sent for. The apathy displayed by the husband nearly got him lynched by an angry crowd, and he was saved by the efforts of the local constabulary in getting him away.

S.H.Grimm 1774. The Fairlop Fair - original in The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Road to Fairlop Fair by Thomas Rowlandson 1815.

The original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fairlop Fair. Published 7 July 1815 by Thomas T. Tegg, 111 Cheapside (London)..

   

Fairlop Fair 1841

from The Farthing Journal

 

   

Fairlop Fair. Illustrated London News,  July 15 1843.

Fairlop Fair. The Illustrated News of the World  page 28. July 10, 1858

  In 1865 a Mr. Hemingway, a ballad singer arrived at the fair in a boat on wheels which was decked in flags and bunting. This picture is taken outside the Kings Arms in Mile End Road. Song sheets were handed out with songs of the Fair. It is thought that the man in the light coat and hat seated in the centre of the boat is Mr Hemingway.

Some of these songs have been recorded on a CD by the "Essex Man" Tony Kendall in 2000 who was commissioned by Redbridge Museum to research, sing and record  the Fairlop Fair ballads. 

 

The Pictorial World July 17th 1875

The Fair continued to 1900 being held in various venues in the area. This may have been one of the last pictures of the Fairlop Boat

See also the Fairlop Oak page.

Why not visit the Museum at The Central Library, Ilford

and see the Fairlop Fair exhibit and hear the songs that were sung at the fair.