Chertsey Black Cherry Fair, SurreyAnnual fairs were once major milestones in the calendar of just about every town and city in the land, held around a particular saint’s day and drawing traders from far and wide. A few such as the Appleby Horse Fair remain and retain their original function; many others have metamorphosed into seasonal funfairs. The Chertsey Black Cherry Fair is one event that can certainly hark back many centuries, and has kept aspects of its earliest incarnation, but also has a modern spin.
The first fair at Chertsey was apparently held on St Ann’s Day 1440, the privilege granted by Henry VI to the local abbot whose institution gained financially from the tolls paid by stallholders and those putting up tents. In the following century the end of July gathering became known as The Black Cherry Fair. Sadly the seemingly unbroken line back to 1440 ended in 1915, though for a time a sports event replaced it; but in 1975 the local Chamber of Commerce revived the custom, and it has continued in robust health ever since.
Today the fair still attracts around 100 stallholders, promoting their organisations and selling product. There is the by now traditional funfair, along with musical events echoing the arrival of minstrels and jugglers at the medieval versions. And there is a grand parade, led by princesses selected from local schools and a brewer’s dray, followed by floats collecting money for charities and other groups marching with them.
More British Folk Customs?