London and Home Counties Section

Administrative area: London, Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Essex, Middlesex, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

With responsibility for the capital and the immediately surrounding counties, the London & Home Counties Section has the largest membership of the entire Guild.

In London itself the Section organises the bank holiday fairs held three times each year on the wide expanse of Blackheath and the slopes of Hampstead Heath.

Two famous street fairs held in May also come under its banner: the thirteenth century fair that straddles the town centre crossroads at Beaconsfield on 10 May and on the Wednesday after the spring bank holiday, Pinner Fair in MIddlesex. This latter fair was granted by charter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the fourteenth century and was originally held on the Wednesday of Whit-week. In the following days the showmen make their way to Epsom, where for over two centuries now their amusements have been an essential part of the race meeting that includes the Derby.

The Monday after the first Sunday in July is the traditional day for the Revels at Goring-on-Thames. On 25 July the Ebernoe Horn Fair is held on the common of a tiny West Sussex hamlet. The cricket match and a sheep roast that take place alongside the fair have been part of the event since the 1860s.

The month of August abounds with Feast fairs, including those at the Oxfordshire villages of Warborough, Clanfield and Marsh Baldon and the former Berkshire village of Uffington. Without a doubt, the jewel in the crown of the London Section is the historic Oxford St Giles Wake Fair. Opening by ancient custom on ‘the first Monday after the first Sunday after the first of September’, this magnificent gathering of fairground attractions along both sides of the broad thoroughfare of St Giles marks the start of the showmen’s busy autumn season, ‘the back-end run’, and is one of the nation’s finest fairs. In the weeks that follow time-honoured fairs such as those at Witney, Thame, Wallingford, Newbury, Banbury, Chichester and Buckingham maintain the brisk momentum at this time of year.

In November the one-day street fair at Petworth and the Martinmas ‘Pudding-Pie’ Fair in the market place of the Oxfordshire village of Deddington signal the traditional end of the travelling season. However, in the last few years a major new fair has appeared on the scene. The Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park, which runs from late November until the end of the Christmas holidays, is an exciting mixture of rides and other attractions presented by British showmen and their counterparts in the Netherlands and Germany.