Heritage: The man who started the great Fairlop Fair

An artist's rendition of the Fairlop Fair. Picture: Norman Gunby

An artist's rendition of the Fairlop Fair. Picture: Norman Gunby - Credit: Archant

The incredible life of the man who created one of the borough’s most popular historical events is explored by David Martin, of the Fairlop Heritage Group.

Daniel Day had earned his fortune as a pump and block maker and lived in St. John’s Parish, Wapping, near to the River Thames.

He inherited property near Fairlop and decided to collect the rents there annually, usually on the first Friday in July.

He made the day a special occasion for his friends, his employees and his tenants. He arranged for a ‘beanfeast’ (brought from The Maypole, then sited near where the New Fairlop Oak Pub is today), to be held under the great canopy of the Fairlop Oak.Within a few years the gathering turned into a gigantic fair.

There were puppeteers, circus acrobats and exotic animals on hand to provide entertainment. A market sprang up too, selling knick-knacks, sweets, and toys.

It is claimed that a great number of those attending the fair indulged in riotous and tumultuous behaviour, and the sale of ale and spirit liquor and many gaming tables encouraged vice and immorality.

The fair was banned in 1763, but continued the following year and for another 100 years despite the loss of the Oak in 1820 and deforestation, when 3,012 acres of Kings Wood forest was turned into farmland in 1851.

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Daniel Day felt at home on the River Thames, but had been involved in a number of accidents when travelling by coach and horse, so he put wheels on a boat, pulled by a team of horses, and travelled in style to the fair accompanied by musicians.

In 1766, a huge branch fell off the Fairlop Oak, and Daniel Day, then aged 84 took it as an omen of his forthcoming death, which occurred in 1767.

His coffin is said to have been fashioned from the huge branch that had fallen off the Oak.

He was buried in St. Margaret’s Church yard, Barking. He had originally asked to be buried under the Fairlop Oak, but his request was denied.

His will states: “I desire to be decently buried in Barking Church Yard in the county of Essex at the discretion of my excecutors, and I desire to have six men of the same trade that I followed to attend my funeral and to put my Body into a boat and to convey the same to Barking aforesaid by water and then to set the same interred and I give and bequeath to the said six men one Guinea each and also a new apron and a pair of gloves to each of them for their trouble.”