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Stow Fair

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Place Collected: Wyck Rissington
Date collected: 1928 (Oct)
Collector: Albino, H.H.
Roud Number: 137

The song “Widdecombe Fair” must be one of England’s best known folk songs, and the phrase “Uncle Tom Cobley and all” has passed into the language as a popular idiom. The original does seem rooted in Devon, associated with Widecombe-in-the-Moor and Devon folk take it to their heart as part of their cultural heritage, the song is responsible for a good deal of tourist trade to the area. However, others versions, including Stow Fair, do exist, with varying names. In Sussex it is Landsdown Fair, in Hampshire Illsdown Fair and in Bedfordshire it is Bedford Fair (what else?). There is even a rival Devon version called Barnstaple Fair. The song seems mainly confined to southern England and a version collected in West Virginia is firmly based on the Hampshire version. Despite its great popularity, the song does not seem to be old and cannot be traced back earlier than the late 19th century. It does appear on broadsides and was first published in 1889 by the Rev Baring-Gould in “Songs of the West”.

The fair in Stow-on-the-Wold has a long history as a horse fair and since WWII has been almost entirely a gypsy meeting and trading fair.

Notes by Gwilym Davies

Media & Downloads

See the song/tune as collected (PDF file)
Hear the song/tune (midi file)
Version to sing (PDF file)
Hear a version to sing (midi file)

Modern recording performed by: Tradsinger and friends

Song/tune as collected (abc file)
Version to sing (abc file)