The Village Fair
Like many towns and villages throughout the country, East Bergholt held an annual fair for many centuries, in fact an early record by order of the Lord of the Manor in the reign of Henry VI recorded that the bailiff should collect rents and profits from stalls ‘next the graveyard of East Bergholt Church and to answer for them’, and there were many attempts to have it banned in the 17th Century when warrants were issued for anyone who set up a booth or stall (1685).
It was listed as a ‘Toy Fair’ in the Suffolk Calendar, Toy fair meaning that there were additional attractions along with the buying and selling of goods, such as puppets, travelling players, swings, wild animals etc.
The annual fair bought mixed feelings from the locals, in fact it is well documented that the Constable family were certainly not keen especially as the fair stretched out immediately in front of their house, with only their drive, front lawn and railings between them. Constables mother Ann was said to have described it as ‘a most wretched fair’ and ‘our miserable fair’ , and even the artist himself would sit some way away from the crowds, in fact in a letter he wrote to Maria on 28 July 1816 he told her that the fair was to be in the coming week and he wanted to get out of its way. When he wrote next he told her ‘I am writing all this, amid a tumult of drums and trumpets & buffoonery of all sorts it is a lovely afternoon & the fair is really very pretty’
Constable depicted the fair ‘A Village Fair’ in 1811, and also sketched a number of pencil drawings the same year of the fair on the green which give you a sence of both the sheer expanse of the Village Green and also the joviality of fair week at the White Horse Inn at Bakers End.
The Alehouses in the village readily keen to provide entertainment in the form of cock-fighting, bull baiting, wrestling, horse and donkey racing during fair week, and because of its location to the old Heath and their convenient spot on the ‘T’ junction to Brantham, The White Horse Inn regularly arranged cricket, especially during fair week.
TO ALL GENTLEMEN LOVERS OF CRICKET
NOTICE is hereby given that on Wednesday the 21st of this instant July at the sign of the White Horse on East Bergholt Heath in Suffolk will be Eleven Hats of Six Shillings value each hat given gratis to be played for at cricket by any tow and twenty men, but their humbled servant.
As we know we lost the village green to ‘Enclosure’ in 1817, however the village fair continued until 1872, housed on the land at Victory Hall, in the field we know today as Willets Pond. (see stories of note 'Victory Hall) and latterly for a number of years in the meadow behind the Red Lion Pub.
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