History Page Five

Topley Fair

The annual fair at Topcliffe used to be held for three days in mid-July. It was a traditional rendezvous for gypsies and horse-dealers from far and near. It was a persistent source of annoyance for Asenby residents as their fields were filled with encampments, wagons, gypsies and tinkers. The Parish Council complained that “Asenby receives no benefit from the Fair so camping should be transferred to the township of Topcliffe”(1924).

Camp dwellers used to congregate along Park Road and the grass verges of Sykes Lane. Crops were damaged and fences broken it seems. Bare knuckle fights took place alongside the riverbank as it was understood that every quarrel, which occurred during the year, had to be settled with a stand up fight at Topley Fair.

The women had a special arena for fighting which was the plot by the river on the Asenby side of the bridge. Horses raced along the road ‘frightening villagers in Asenby’.

There were ‘no sanitary arrangements’ (1949 Parish Council) and many complaints of litter. Drinking booths were set up along the road to Topcliffe. In 1929 a group of 20 Asenby landowners, farmers and tenants voted and agreed not to let any land to fair people.

They agreed that if anyone defaulted on the agreement they would be held responsible for any damage done to other people’s land, fences or crops.

Some farmers are reported to have spread lime on their fields to keep away the gypsies.

Incidents of rowdiness, drunken brawls and reports of cock-fighting continued. In 1968 four members of a local canoe club were attacked and one lad had his front teeth broken. Pressure to end the fair increased.

The last fair took place in 1969. The following year James Callaghan, Secretary of State at the Home Office, signed the notice to abolish Topley Fair and so an old tradition died.

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