1758 John Tomlinson, The Lord of the Manor of Barnet, was granted permission
to change the dates of the fairs from June to April for the first one
and from October to September for the second due to it being better for
This was only from the September fair as the April one had ended in 1881 when the area around Wood Street became part of Barnet common. The Home secretary decided that there were insufficient reasons to close the fair and the local people were pleased with the outcome.
you can see from this old photo the railway station is in the background
The days when Barnet fair was not hidden in a field somewhere
is more or less where the fair as we know it today is held but the horse
fair has declined in the past few years with only about 20 horses for
sale in a field at the far end of Mays Lane. With the demise of the use
of the horse it would be the pleasure fair that was to keep alive the
yearly event and to this day September is the time of the year when we
can walk up to our necks in mud but still enjoy a part of the past.
Below is a report on Barnet Fair in the Victorian times written by James Greenwood, 1881 [first published 1875]
I have been at Barnet Fair on the great day
of all - the Costermongers' Carnival; I have talked to many of those
participating in the festivities, but as any narrative of the events must
greatly depend on colour and phraseology,I think it better that the story should be told
to you in the terms and answers given to the friendly inquiries
Mind you, I don't hold with
extrawagance; and though it was all right havin' them four new spokes put in
the barrer wheels (Joe Simmon s wife being a hounce or two heavier than a
hinfant, and my old gal rapidly growin' cut o' that silf-like figger she had
when we was courtin'), there's no denying, as it was werry much like pomp
and wanity, havin' the wehicle painted yeller with a picking out of green.
There is a lively sarsiness
about it that aggrawates the perlice without givin' 'em sufficient excuse to
be down on yer, which is very comfortin' to be'old; but I beg it to be
understood that it isn't what in superior langwidge might be called 'nobby.'
It's a hindication of a mind not much above pennywinkles or creases, or any
of them lower branches of the purfession what's hawked in baskets.
We only made five halts on the road; the last
one being more for the sake of getting a bit of raw steak [-307-] for
Simmon's eye that he got in the heat of argyment with a cat's meat man wot
threw a turnip at his missus, just the t'other side of Whetstone.
We was not alone under the hedge. There was
several other parties wot I had met at the markets wet had brought their
wittles; and, bein' friendly and open to deal, it was a chunk o' pie for a
bit o' cold pickled pork, or a cold baked tater for a cold biled 'un, or a
ingun for the worth of it in cheese, as fair and friendly as possible. After
which, and the rest of the' beer wot was in the bottle, we was in a proper
frame of mind to get towards the fair.
I knew 'em again direckly, having had wot was werry nigh a row with 'em on the Monday, when I bought the werry pony wot I'm driving now, and was bringin' him home. It was all about payin' a penny toll, and all who had bought a horse had to pay it, and everybody kicked at it. No pike - no giving you a ticket - no nothing; only him with the dirty short pipe that looked like a drover out o' work, and the other two chaps in their shirts and trousers, and with their sleeves tucked up and flourishing them staffs as though goadin' of you not to pay the penny, so that they might get an excuse to have a shy at you.
I don't object to tolls when it's all reglar
and there's a pike to show for it - and I spose it is reglar since the
perlice allowed it; but swelp me goodness ! if I was a lord of a
manor, and I wanted to screw a penny out of a poor cove wot couldn't afford
it, I would contrive to put by enough out of the profits to alter the cut of
them toll takers."
A proper sort of fair Barnet is. It's snug, in
the fust place. It's so down in a hole that you might clap a lid on the top,
of it and shut it all in. Then there's nothing stuck up about it; no doing
the grand and playing the lady and gen'leman; a good solid cut-and-come-agin
kind o' fair; a pleasant mixshure of the comforts of home with the
amoosements one has got a happytite for. It's a hexcellent place for grub.
They may hang about the outside of the fair
and try to catch a Johnny Wopstraw or two, but they never try it on the lads
of our school. You might walk through and through the fair and not meet one
of the gang in question
He was up on his stool with that pouch wot's got such a awful lot of 'arf-crowns in by his side, and his cuffs tucked up and his decoy in his hand, patterin away like a steam-engine, and trying to conwince them wot was listenin' how werry foolish they was not to grab at the chance of buyin' seven-and-sixpence, placed in the purse before their werry eyes, for the ridiculous sum of 'arf-a-crown. Simmons and I stood by, and Simmons jogs me, and ses, 'Blest if there isn't Long Ned Spankers ' boy a listenin' with his mouth open,' and the willain will nail him sure as eggs ain't chickens!'
And sure enuf there was young Ned - he's as
long a'most as his father, and stiffish built for a lad of seventeen, but a
awful fool at business. I was sorry to see it, for his father's sake, but I
ses, 'Let him bite if he's green enough; p'raps it'll do him good.'
It's the neatest trick you ever see, I'll wager.' 'I'll back the one I'm goin' to show you for twice the money,' said the young barrer-man; and makin' a spring at the chap on a stool, he had him down and with his head in chancery afore you could count six. 'The sitiwation was embarrassin,' as they say in the newspapers; and swearin' that it was all a joke, the purse dodger gave him back the 'arfcrown and sneaked off rapid. I hope his father won't read this, for on condition of young Ned spendin' a shillin' in a couple of pots of beer we promised not to tell him.
"Then there's the shows. Barnet Fair sets a example in that line sich as other places of public amoosement might get a wrinkle out of. Women's tastes ain't like men's; their ideas of enjoyment being natarally more delikit.
At Barnet they manages to suit all parties, and gives em a opportunity of pairin' off so as to suit their tastes.
For instance, while the missus went to the wax work, me and Simmons was in the next tent having a game at skittles; then we took a turn in Sluggers' sparrin'-booth, while the ladies passed a pleasant 'arf-hour in the Star Ghost carawan and got their blood froze for a penny, which, considerin the 'eat of the afternoon, wasn't dear. After that, by way of restorin' their sperits, they went to see the four-legged duck and the big-headed child and the livin' skellington;
Bill and me meanwhile enjoyin' ourselves in a wan where there was a Kaffir eating live rats; by which time we was ready for tea and a relish with it.
"After that, findin' ourselves in cheerful company, and a fiddle comin' in, we had a song and then a dance. Lots of dancers, and werry glad we were that beer was sold on the premises, and I believe we should have kep' it up later than we did, had not that confounded cat's-meat man that Simmons fell foul of in the morning poked his ugly 'ead in, on which Simmons, who had got the liquor aboard, wanted satisfackshun for his black eye. That was only fair; so while the women found their shawls they settled their little difference outside, after which we ordered the barrer, and by means of steddy drivin' and stoppin' to breathe the pony at every place that had a sign-board hanging out, we managed to get back to Mile-end just in time to get a partin' drain before the houses closed."
Doing a deal at the horse fair
also about Barnet Fair was
a little alley, which offers a convenient and near "cut" from
our street to the main road, resides our greengrocer. He is a most wonderful
man, being at once the most shrewd, and shiftless, and idle, and everlastingly
active fellow that ever was born. Ours is a new neighbourhood, and we
are very glad to patronise Mr. Tibbits and his perambulating store.
It needed not the appearance at this juncture of Mr.Tibbits's cart and
horse (the former clean washed and with three Windsor chairs ranged in
it, betokening " a party," and the latter with his mane and
tail neatly plaited and tied with cherry-coloured ribbon) to explain the
mystery. The cat was out. Our greengrocer was going to Barnet fair. Without
doubt this was his holiday of the year. Christmas was nothing to him,
for, as I distinctly recollect,
he left word the day before " that if extra fruit or anything was
wanted, he should be open all day;" on Derby Day he was bawling green-peas
and gooseberries; on the Mondays of Whitsun and Easter he was seen at
a neighbouring fair with his cart, and up to his elbows in damaged dates,
driving a roaring trade.
such scene as this is presented to the eye; but who shall describe the
bedlam Babel of sound that arises from the busy, ever-shifting, motley
mob ? Fifty negotiations towards a sale are taking place at one and the
same time, each one accompanied by an amount of yelling, and bellowing,
and whip-slashing, and whistling which must have been pleasant to the
ears of the " Chick-saw" rat-eater, as reminding him of the
habits and customs of his tribe.
is a report from the London TIMES for Monday September 9th 1935 Four
people killed by a lorry at Barnet Fair
How the travellers came to Barnet Fair in 1921