Horse Fairs

Photo Mandy Rickman, Appleby Fair, 2005

One of the greatest traditions which is still an important part of Gypsy culture are the horse fairs. Stow on the Wold in Gloucestershire and Wickham in Hampshire play host to centuries old annual Gypsy Horse Fairs, - at Wickham this is held for one day in May. In Stow there is a fair in May and also in October. The Appleby Fair is probably one of the most well-known one of the many in England. Appleby Fair runs for a week in June, ending on the 2nd Wednesday in June, in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria.

It is probably the best known of the horse fairs attended by Romani families travelling to meet up with old friends and conduct business. It is world famous, the largest of its kind in the world, and attracts a huge Gypsy gathering.

It has existed as a fair for horse trading since 1685, under the protection of a charter granted by James II.

The field on the outskirts of Appleby originally known as Gallows Hill, due to its usage in earlier times is now called Fair Hill and looks over the town of Appleby. During the Fair, horses may be found everywhere - in the river, on its banks, along the roadsides or tethered outside hotels and shops.

Young people wash the horses in the River Eden and are then ready to show them off. The old tradition of racing and trotting the horses along Flashing Lane still takes place throughout the day.

Photos Mandy Rickman, Appleby Fair, 2005


The horse fairs provide a meeting place where families can socialise, trade and where the young people can make friends -sometimes the horse fairs also provide an opportunity for young couples to meet one another. To this day, girls are expected to marry within the Gypsy community and the fairs may be the only way that this future generation can make friends with people form their own culture.