Widecombe Fair

by martinhesp

This week I went to a country fair on Dartmoor – not many communities of just 600 souls boast a world famous annual event, but Widecombe Fair is one of them. 

 Image

Mainly because of the well known song that starts…

 

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare

All along, down along, out along lee.

For I want to go down to Widecombe Fair

Wi’ Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,

Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawk,

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all

 

And here they all are – Bill Brewer etc etc etc – being photographed by Richard Austin, the famous photographer who regularly works on commissions for the Western Morning News. 

Image

There really was a man called Uncle Tom Cobley who used to attend Widecombe Fair in the days when autumn stock sales were vital to the hill farmers who needed to be rid of excess cattle and sheep they’d raised during spring and summer. 

Image

The Wag of Widecombe, otherwise known as Tony Beard, was doing the compering at the fair as he always does, and he told me: “Uncle Tom really did exist – he is buried down at Spreyton churchyard. And his story is a real part of this event’s long history – the farmers up here were very good at raising cattle and sheep in spring and summer, but when autumn came they wouldn’t have had enough fodder to keep them. 

Image

“The farmers down in areas like Spreyton grew tons of cereals, so they had plenty of feed. That was why they’d all come up to the autumn sales at Widecombe. 

“There were sales going here for centuries before 1802 when the records for this fair began,” said the Widecombe Wag. “And they walked all the animals down to the low lying areas, which is why so many wanted a ride up on Uncle Tom’s horse.”

Image

There’s always plenty to see at the fair, like the line of venerable tractors which gave the show a dash of colour. 

Image

 

Even the old tractor seats are a colourful work of art.

Image

Advertisements