DESCRIPTION: Queen Anne saw Fairlop's famous oak and moved her court there. The oak "spreads an acre of ground." The fair was started by Daniel Day who made his friends merry with drink. We dance around the tree and booze care away on the first Friday in July
EARLIEST DATE: before 1830 (broadside, Bodleian Firth c.19(171))
KEYWORDS: dancing drink nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South))
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Williams-Thames, pp. 82-83, "Fairlop Fair" (1 text) (also Wiltshire-WSRO Ox 298)
Bell-Combined, pp. 411-412, "The Fairlop Fair Song" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert Bell, editor, Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of the Peasantry of England (London, 1857 ("Digitized by Google")), pp. 191-192, "Fairlop Fair Song" (1 text)
Fairlop and its Founder; or Facts and Fun for the Forest Frolickers by a Famed First Friday Fairgoer (Totham, 1847 ("Digitized by Google")), not paginated, "Fair-lop Fair" (1 text)
Bodleian, Firth c.19(171), "The origin of Fairlop fai[r]" ("Come, come, my boys, with a hearty glee") , T. Birt (London), 1828-1829
NOTES: The source for the following note is Fairlop and its Founder, cited above.
Daniel Day (1683-1767) had a small estate near the Fairlop Oak and every year in mid August he collected his rents there. He invited his neighbors on the occasion and served a meal of beans and bacon under the oak. "His friends were so well pleased with the rural novelty, that they one and all pledged themselves to accompany him on the same occasion every year, on the first Friday in July, during their lives. In the course of a few years, this amicable meeting greatly increased, and became known to the neighboring gentry, farmers, and yeomanry; and a vast number of them annually, on the day of Mr Day's jubilee, visited the place." By 1725 it "began to present every resemblance of a regular fair" and it became Day's "principal hobby-horse." The custom was still practiced in 1847, when Fairlop and its Founder was printed.
The tree stood in Hainault Forest, about ten miles from London. Around 1790 at noon its shadow covered almost an acre and its circumference measured about 36 feet. Around 1800 the tree was fenced around and wounds were plastered to preserve them from decay. Each text I have listed mentions the plastering -- "They plastered it round to keep the tree sound" -- so that puts an earliest possible date on the song. Miscreants set the tree on fire in 1805 and high winds finished the destruction in 1820. The pulpits of St Pancras Church were made from the remaining wood. Earlier, Day's coffin had been built from wood of that oak.
Aside from the history, and Daniel Day's will, Fairlop and its Founder includes the text of five poems about the fair besides the text of "Fair-lop Fair." I don't know if any of these other five poems were ever in the oral tradition. - BS
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