"We, Henry The Third of England, in this year of grace Twelve Hundred and Forty Eight, grant to you, our loyal servant Robert, son of Payne, Lord of the Manor of Witheridge (and your heirs) A Fair, to be held annually on the Eve, Day and Morrow of the Feast of St John the Baptist."

This Years Fair takes place on the 26th, 27th & 28th June, and programmes are now on sale in village shops and pubs for 50p. Tickets are also available for the evening events and can be obtained from either Gill on 01884 860557 or Debbie on 01884 860207..

By the 14th Century, with the horse providing not only the quickest means of travel, but also the most effective method of transportation of goods, along with its widespread use on the land, there were millions of horses in England. This led to the growth of the horse market, or Horse Fair as they were commonly known, and dealing with work horses, 'soldiers', which were horses for the Army, and carriage horses and fine ponies. Witheridge Fair, and more specifically its April fairs, became popular for its horse sales, with householders often needing to barricade their homes against invasion by these animals, as they were driven, like cattle and sheep, via Lapford Station to other parts of Devon and beyond. Many of the original customs of the Charter Fair fell by the wayside around this time with the June Fair celebrated simply as a Great Market.

 In 1887, Bostocks famous Royal Menagerie visited Witheridge Fair. This enticing exhibition of wild beasts, which included lions, tigers, wolves, elephants, camels, monkeys, and many other animals, was one of a number of travelling menageries, which, in the nineteenth century were travelling the length and breath of these islands showing their exhibits. For many, they gave a natural history lesson, and it is said that Menagerie owners considered themselves as teachers of the crowds," for had it not been for them, people would not have known of wild animals." The right to be called Royal was granted after Queen Victoria called the menagerie perform for her at Windsor.

The Fair, traditionally based around the village square, had stalls and rides, and started with the reading of a copy of the original Fair Charter, continued right up to the early 1930s when is was discontinued. However in 1991, thanks largely to the efforts of Peggy Miles who researched the Fair history back to its Fitzpaine origins, the Fair returned, and it is now the climax of a weeklong series of events, and, as part of the Fair, Witheridge is now the host to the Official Devon Town Criers Championship.

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Last Edited 09/02/2010    Copyright © 2000-2010 Witheridge

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