Tavistock - Autumn 1997 - Goose Fair

Tavistock's annual Goose Fair takes place on the second Wednesday in October. It has been doing so since the early 12th century.
Fairground rides and market stalls occupy Bedford Square, Abbey Place and Plymouth Road for the day and a livestock market - the original purpose of the fair - is held in the cattle market. Traffic is diverted away from the town centre for the day, and the town fills up with fairgoers from all over Devon. The town's main car park is turned for the rest of the week into a showground, with high-G mechanical rides, sideshows, candy stalls and traditional fairground roundabouts.

This year's fair was wet: the wettest, according to those who know about these things, for 22 years. This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the riders in these pictures, which I took on Wednesday 8 October. The first is from the week-long showground in the car park, the second from the one-day site in front of the Town Hall in Bedford Square.

Click on the pix to see them full size (56k and 44k respectively)
Hi-speed ride - 56k Fairground ride - 44k 

Goose Fair History

The date of the first Tavistock Goose Fair is unknown, but thought to be around the same time that the Abbot of Tavistock obtained a weekly market for the town in 1105. In 1116, the town's Market Charter was confirmed by King Henry I.

Traditionally, Goose Fair was the occasion for farmers to drive their geese to market, allowing their customers time to fatten the birds for the Christmas table. Although a few geese are still sold in the livestock market, this is no longer the mainstay of either the fair or its associated livestock sales. The theme continues, however, through goose lunches which are served in restaurants, pubs and clubs in the town on Goose Fair day.

The fair is administered jointly by the Town and Borough Councils. It is one of Tavistock's annual highlights, when market traders and members of the Showmen's Guild come from all over the country to selll their wares and provide entertainment for townspeople and visitors from all over the county. Stalls and sideshows occupy about 200 sites in Bedford Square and adjacent roads and a further 70 sites are allocated to the Showmen's Guild in the Bedford Car Park. The Town Council operates a Park & Ride scheme on Goose Fair Day: it just is not worth trying to bring a car to Tavistock on the second Wednesday of October! 

Tavvystock Goozey Vair
[C. John Trythall]

Tes jis a month cum Vriday nex' Bill Champernown an' me,
Us druv' acrost ole Dartymoor, th' Goozey Vair to zee.
Us made our sles quite vitty, us shaved an' graised our 'air,
An' off us goes in our Zunday cloes be'ind Bill's ole gray mare.
Us smelled th' sage an' onions arl th' way fr'm Whitchurch Down,
An' did'n us av a blaw out when us put up in the' town!
An' theer us met Ned 'Annafurd, Jan Steer an' Nicky Square,
Ut sim to we arl Deb'n mus' be to Tavvystock Goozey Vair.

An' uts "Aw thun, whur be'e gwaine, an' wot be'e doin'of there?
'Aive down yer prong an' stap down long, tes Tavvystock Goozey Vair."

Us went an' zeed th' 'osses an' th' yaffers an' th' yaws,
Us went 'pun arl th' roundabouts an' inter arl th' shaws;
An' then ut started rainin' an' blawin' too, Ess Fai,
So off us goes back to th' Rose an' 'aves a dish o' tay.
An' then us ad a zing zong an' the folks kep drappin' in,
An' them wot knawed us arl cum roun' an' 'ad a drap o' gin;
Till wot with one an' t'other us didn' sim to care
Whether us wor to Bellevur Tor, er Tavvystock Goozey Vair.

An' uts ...

'Twas rainin' straims an' dark as pitch when us started 'ome that night,
An' when us got pas' Merrival Bridge th' mare 'er tuk a vright;
Sez I to Bill, "Be careful er you'll 'av us in th' drains."
Sez Bill ter me, "Begad", sez 'e, "Why, abm yew got th' reins?"
Jus' then th' mare run slap agin a whackin' gurt big stoan,
'Er kicked th' trap to flibbits an' 'er trotted off alone,
When us cum to us reckind twarnt no gude settin' there,
So us 'ad to trudge 'ome thurteen mile from Tavvystock Goozey Vair.

An' uts ...

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Updated 27 October 1997
(minor improvements 28 May 2000)