Time to party like 1725 at revival of ancient Fairlop Fair

Circus acts, fortune tellers, fire eaters and fools will wow crowds at a Redbridge fair which has its roots in the 1700s.

The Fairlop Fair, which once drew more than 200,000 people, returns to Fairlop Waters, off Forest Road, Barkingside, on July 6 and 7 for one of the highlights of the summer.

In its heyday in the 1800s, entertainment included boxing booths which allowed visitors to don gloves, an “excessively fat lady”, a “real live mermaid” and the “living skeleton”.

Though such outlandish shows won’t feature this year, there will be much to recreate the past, including traditional swing boats and rides, old English games and folk music.

The Fairlop Freak Show, presented by the Bearded Ladies, will allow visitors to compete to show the stupidest haircuts, biggest ears or most awful outfit. Four-legged friends can join in a Pup Idol competition to find the best dressed dog and most talented hound, among other categories.


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The original fair grew out of wealthy landowner Daniel Day’s tradition of sharing a breakfast of bacon and beans with friends under the famous Fairlop Oak, then situated in Fairlop Waters.

With numbers growing from 1725 onwards, Mr Day also had a boat on wheels, complete with rigging and mast, which would journey from Mile End to Fairlop.

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A “storyboat” on wheels will recreate the journey this year, travelling from Wapping to the festival site between Tuesday and Saturday.

Its arrival will be marked, between 4-8pm, with a fire, music, food and candlelit boat tours.

The fair, supported by the Mayor of London, will also include a Big Dance event as part of the London 2012 festival with the Golden Years Dance Troupe.

A dance floor will let visitors join in with folk music by Redbridge Music Lounge.

Cllr Robin Turbefield, the cabinet member for leisure, said: “This modern-day fair is going to be a spectacular event and will provide fun for all the family.”

Festivities run from 11am-6pm.

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