Fairlop’s huge oak tree that was fit for a Queen
- Credit: Archant
Even as the borders of the once vast Hainault Forest were chopped further and further back, all the way to the woodland area we know today, one tree continued to stand proud on its own, cut off from its forest mates.
For several hundred years it was even counted as one of the tallest trees in Britain, and it has since lent its name to a popular public house.
We are, of course, talking about the Fairlop Oak.
It is recorded that this behemoth of an oak tree measured an astounding 36 feet in girth at three feet from the ground, and its branches extended 300-feet in circumference.
The shadows cast by its plentiful branches covered more than an acre of ground and the tree's reputation grew so much that during her reign between 1702 and 1714 Queen Anne herself even came to see it.
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It was around this tree that a fair was held on the first Friday of July every year for many years.
What started as a bean feast - private picnic of bacon and beans, washed down with plenty of ale - held by Daniel Day for his tenants and employees from the early 1700s had, by 1725 grown to an annual event people from across the area would travel to.
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Mr Day was in business as a ship's pump and block maker at Wapping, and also owned a number of cottages around the Barkingside area.
Many of his workers would start their day early and travel to the Oak from the docks of east London in a procession of colourfully deocrated horse-drawn carts and floats and vehicles of every description, all accompanied by enthusiastic musicians of, shall we say, varying abilities.
Mr Day died in 1767 at the ripe old age of 84 but the fair continued to go from strength to strength.
In fact by the fair of 1839, according to missionaries from the Religious Tract Society, there were 72 gaming tables and 108 places for drinking there.
By this point the fair had become a three-day event lasting from Friday to Sunday and in 1840 an estimated 200,000 people attended over the festival's 72 hours.