Local traditions - the Rawtenstall Annual Fair

Immortalised in song by the Houghton Weavers and here by Lee Nicholson, the apocryphal Rawtenstall Annual Fair included sideshows of 40 ‘stone’ ladies, tattooed ladies, mermaids and the house o’myst’ry with a number of mishaps perpetrated by ‘the lads’ and a touch of general smut. The song has been described as ‘good rugby song stuff for the coach back from the game’ (but clean!). Incidentally the ‘coal pits up at Burnley’ referred to in the song have long gone...

There is no good evidence of a historic annual fair of this nature, rather local fairs included prizes for the best examples of a range of agricultural produce. Captain Patrick of Springhill was a regular entrant and won a number of prizes for, e.g., carriage horses, sucking pigs and geese.

Four years ago a local community group restarted the ‘Rawtenstall Annual Fair’, initially as a food/craft market with some chlldren’s stalls. It has since developed as a forum for local musicians/dancers/DJs to have the opportunity to perform live in public in the open air. But no mermaids.

In addition this year the local museum (now run by a community group after being closed by the County Council last year) ran an afternoon of Lancashire song and dialect and storytelling. I remember Lancashire dialect from my childhood, now it has all but gone. It is interesting that the fair is developing to try and preserve traditions such as dialect poetry and storytelling which were never part of the historic fairs of the area.

rawtenstall annual fair thumbnail Rawtenstall Annual Fair stalls thumbnail

The pictures below are thought to date from ~1910

rawtenstall annual fair 200 annual fair 1910 plan 200

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