Heritage: The History of Fairlop Fair

The train at Fairlop Fair. Picture: Sandra Rowse

The train at Fairlop Fair. Picture: Sandra Rowse - Credit: Archant

David Martin, of Fairlop Historical Society, talks us through the origins of one of Redbridge’s most popular events.

In the 1720s Daniel Day, a block and pump maker from Wapping, inherited property at Fairlop and on the first Friday of July, came with friends to collect the annual rents.

Afterwards he arranged for bacon and beans from The Maypole.

He and his friends enjoyed feasting in the shade of the enormous branches of the ancient Fairlop Oak.

Over the next five years, the gathering slowly took on the beginnings of a fair.

Daniel had been involved in accidents while travelling by coach and horse.

He felt at home on water, so had wheels fitted to a boat, and travelled in style accompanied by musicians.

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Estimates range between 30,000 and 100,000 attended the fair.

In 1765 the constabulary claimed that great numbers attending the fair indulged in riotous and tumultuous behaviour.

They added it led to the sale of ale and spirit liquor and gaming tables encouraged vice and immorality.

The Religious Tract Society, a Christian book publisher, once counted 108 drinking booths and 72 gaming tables.

In the 1760s, a huge branch fell off the Fairlop Oak, and Daniel Day, aged 84 took it as an omen of his forthcoming death.

In his will he declared that he was to be buried in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s, Barking.

His will states that his body was to be placed in a boat and conveyed to Barking aforesaid by water.

In 1844, a violent argument took place between a husband and wife.

Her horses were startled and she fell between the shafts and Harriet Milward was killed.

An angry crowd were intent on lynching the husband, but he was rescued by the constabulary.

In 1846, Pc George Hall was fatally injured when thrown from his horse after 15 hours of duty.

This year to commemorate his death Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, a patron of the Fairlop Heritage Group, laid flowers.

The original fair continued until 1900, but Vision RCL revived it with great success in 2012.

The event is once again a major part of Redbridge’s calender, with thousands turning up every year.

At the latest Fairlop Fair, the fifth in its contemporary guise, a RAF Hurricane flew over to commemorate Pc Hall.

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