At the turn of the 20th century, when ordinary people had money to spare, they would save it for delights like Stony Stratford’s August Fair on Horsefair Green. Thousands of people visited from neighbouring villages – in the local idiom, ‘it was absolutely chock-bang full!’
Neil Mercer’s song captures the delight articulated in Tom Worker’s memories, recorded as he walked round Stony for his interview in 1976: There was Thurston’s fair and Abbott’s fair and Billings had the horses - from Market Square right up to Horsefair Green. All down Mill Lane, they had donkey rides and horse rides and round by Horn Lane and Oxford Street, there were stalls, coconut shies, everything you could mention. All up the Green were switchbacks, ‘joywheels’, and ‘bumping cars’…
And there was music, different tunes and songs from different places. You’d hear Thurston’s organ, and Abbott’s organ, and you’d hear Billings’ organ - a mass of music it was!...
It was at the fair we first saw moving pictures, Taylor’s show. He had a massive organ out the front and these dancing ladies - he had the figures move their arms and legs about. People would stand there by the hundreds, with their mouths open. He was a fine man John Taylor was, with a high hat on. He’d raise his hat and say, Good evening, gentlemen! Then the organ would strike up, and the girls would dance and he’d take off his hat again and say, ‘Walk in, walk in - see the first moving pictures!’ It was a wonderful show, in front of where the library is now…
They’d sell cockles and whelks, cow heels, pig’s trotters, and tripe. It was lovely! For three days in August, the fair would go all day long till after midnight. And all under our window, we had big engines - you couldn’t live in our house for fumes. But you didn’t mind the noise because it was so excitable, but after the fair had gone, that din was in your ears for a couple of days; you could still hear the fair going!
(Tom Worker, LAMK 1976)
Images and interview extracts from LAMK archive
The song is featured on The Living Archive Band’s album All That’s Changed Vol 2 (LAMK)