Rawtenstall Annual Fair

The Rawtenstall Annual Fair was held annually in late June. It is immortalised in the rather bawdry song but there are more contemporary, if not necessarily more accurate descriptions available.

The first is from the reminiscences of Louisa Hamer, 'Reminiscences of Rawtenstall', written in the 1960s. The document is in the Whitaker museum (thank you). she is describing events in 1884.

'Rawtenstall Fair was held at the end of June and here let me tell you of my last visit there.

I was eleven years old and I was happy and enthralled. I was alone. I liked to be alone, but I had a rasping time; once on the dry land sailors and once on the swings, twice on the hobby horse; with a quarter of a pound of snaps and half a pound of nuts, and I still had fourpence out of the bright shining shilling my Mother had given me.

I stood before the 'great show' where a fine buxom lass was singing. An orchestra of two blared away on big brass instruments, some old band had thrown away. Today I would love to stand by Fred Tomlinson of the Male Voice Choir and hear him say in his quiet voice, "what is it they are playing?". For it certainly was not an accompaniment, but they blared away and the girl kept on singing:-

"Oh! Harry, Yes, Harry,
There you are then Harry,
Oh! I say Harry by jove you are a bon,
Oh! Harry, yes Harry,
There you are Harry,
There you are then Harry,
Oh! Where you're going on Sunday Harry now
You've got 'EM' on."

She wore white silk tights, beautiful high shoes with little golden tassels; a black velvet bodice, a beautiful Duchess of Devonshire hat with three white feathers, lots of spangles on her bodice and grand looking white kid gloves with deep gauntlets. She kept on singing, in spite of the orchestra, and slapped her leg when a fancy came on now and again.

A great board of scarlet and gold was at the top of the splendid front with 'Baileys' on it, and the people were thronging up the wooden steps to go to the show. I looked at the fourpence that I had left but I said "No" to myself. I had other notions for that money, so I stepped off passed (sic) all the stall of coconuts, and snaps and different kinds of nuts; I passed the blown up balloons and got outside Tup-Meadow; now passed the horse trough opposite the Rams Head Hotel and up the white stone steps of George Cunliffe's. I passed the little counter at the door, sat down on a well scrubbed form and gave my order with pride, :a twopenny pie and a bottle of pop."

Dear readers, in a long lifetime I have given many orders to waiters of many nationalities but never have I felt so proud as I did that day. A twopenny pie was a proper order, you weren't bothered thinking (as you did with a penny one) that you were giving a lot of trouble - dirty saucer, dirty spoon! No a twopenny pie and a bottle of pop was a right and proper order!

I looked at the fireplace as bright and shiny as silver with the topping fire and I felt glad I had not paid 4d. to go into the show.

I still had a penny left, and I asked at the little counter for a pennyworth of Fry's chocolate cream. There were four bars, and I stepped out to walk the mile home, I felt happy and free, for I had no more money to bother about or what to get for it.

There is a quiet sort of happiness when contentment is yours in what you possess, and no money is left - it just doesn't matter. As my Mother so often said, "Be content with what you have." So I ate my share of the chocolate, and left the remaining three for my Mother and my two sisters who always went to the Fair together."

The second is an editorial comment in the Rossendale Free Press of 29 June 1889 commenting on the fair, and the impact of its being close to the Whitsuntide holiday.

Rawtenstall Fair closes to-night. The weather during the week has been delightfully fine, and the attendance large. As prophesied last week, however, the amount of money which has changed hands has been very unsatisfactory to the showmen, who one and all deplore the conflict of the Whitsuntide holidays with fair time. The pot market is strained; customers are shy at shooting galleries, which bullet-ined a decline of two-and-a-half per cent at the close of yesterday's proceedings, and an expectant and very uneasy feeling prevails in hobby-horse circles. The tendency in ice cream is still downwards, and swinging boats are the only things that may safely be relied upon to go up.'

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