Deddington fairs are given in the 'History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Oxford (1852)" as August 10th, the Saturday after Old Michaelmas and November 22nd. The last was the "pudding pie Fair" and its glory over-shadowed all the rest. Weather lore has been associated with it from time immemorial.

'What the wind is at midnight 'fore Deddington Fair, so will it mostly stay the rest of the year.' "Or for three months ahead," said Mr. William Hirons, Deddington's oldest inhabitant ; "I noticed the wind blowing right from Duns Tew this last fair day (1931) and South-West its been mostly since."

That was spoken in January 1932, Mr. Hirons being then almost certainly well over one hundred years of age, for he distinctly remembered walking to his baptism, which is registered 98 years ago. He was a shining example of the adage that hard work never kills, and to his exact and lively memory this record owes much.

"Four o'clock in the morning and a fine day for the pudding pie Fair !" That was how the Watchman ushered it in. If it were not fine one wonders whether he had the heart to say so ! Wet or dry anyhow there were pudding pies, and buying and selling and much noise.

The Fair figures yet in the list and is fitfully, very slightly in evidence. In 1931 quite thirty young cart horses and Welsh ponies were trotted out for sale along the 'Horse Fair' ; the ponies, pretty wild creatures in their rough coats, travelling with their drovers through likely counties where there might be a chance to dispose of them before beginning the expense of winter feed.

Previously for quite two years there had been no sign of horsedealing, merely the rather pathetic sight of a dozen donkeys with the traditional high pommels and pinafore covers, brought into the market place under the assumption that the school children would have a holiday, which they did not. However, as the donkeys were ascertained to be on their way to winter quarters in Wales after a strenuous seaside season, lack of patronage was no grief to them.

Pudding pies have not been made in Deddington for the past six years. Miss Ruth Fowler of "the Old Bakery", whose family had the original recipe from the Bennetts, who were baking in 1852, undoubtedly made that historic delicacy just as it should be, for in sampling one I found it correspond exactly with the jesting descriptions which every elder Deddingtonian, including Miss Fowler, delights to give.

"They say you could tie a label to one and send it through the post a hundred miles—so hard it was."

"Deddington folk were supposed to save up all the scrapings from the candle drippings in the lanterns and put them in the pudding pies." This was also repeated to me by another baker, Mr. W. Course.

Miss Ruth Fowler, herself, quotes a story that gives a quaint, medieval flavour to their peculiar character—a King was journeying from Woodstock to Banbury through Deddington. At Woodstock they gave him gloves and at Banbury light cakes, but in Deddington something between the two, like leather but to be eaten.

Actually they contain a sort of glorified bread pudding in a very hard case. Miss Fowler told me that the outer crust has suet as an ingredient, this is filled with boiled plum pudding, the whole being afterwards baked. Once all the bakers here made them and they were sold at the Stalls. Boiled and baked like Simnel cakes, but with what a different result !

The Watchman had no sooner cried "four o'clock in the morning" than the town band started off to parade all round. It must have paused here and there to play like the Waits, for Mr. Tom Deeley, many years a carrier, whose memory goes back to the eighteen sixties, remembers music under his parents' windows at 5 a.m. and the wild feelings of excited, joyous anticipation it aroused. In the afternoon the band perambulated the town once more.

Leggings and winter clothing were purchased as a matter of course at this late November fair, and the stalls stretched from what was formerly Chisletts' Corner—now known as Smith's Corner ; that is, along the Market Place to the house called the Hermitage. The stalls and booths had to keep strictly to that side for the middle of the square was full of pigs. Sheep thronged the portion of the market place which still bears the name of the Bull Ring, and they extended right along our present "Victoria Terrace," called then Hoof Lane, to where the pound was at Earl's Farm. From opposite the King's Arms, stretching across the Oxford-Banbury highway to some distance up the Hempton Road, there were sometimes as many as from six to seven hundred horses. That has been "the Horse Fair" from time immemorial, and iron rings for tethering are affixed here and there in the stone walls, as well as, formerly, posts at intervals with holes through which to pass the rope which secured the halters. That address proper ends at the police station corner and drovers no longer need space beyond.

Horned cattle were displayed all down the High Street, and one marvels to think that human ears amid the uproar could have heard the town band when it went round again in the afternoon.


The August the 10th Fair must have been of much less importance than that of Old Martinmass (22nd of November), and the day after old Michaelmas, for no recollection of it remains traceable. But Michaelmas-tide Fair (Old Style before the reformation of the calendar in 1752 which the populace averred stole from them eleven days !) was written in red letters in the memory of our oldest inhabitant. An ox was roasted whole near what used to be the pool in the Market Place, and the meat was sold in shilling or sixpenny platefuls.

"Very good it was," said old William Hirons. And he further related that as many as fourteen fat "be-asts" used to be slaughtered for this festival. Beef was not merely on sale at the butchers' shops and stalls, but much of it was reserved for a sort of commercial hospitality. At this season it was usual for customers to settle up bills, and entertainment in true old English style was the rule.

"Beef and bread with their beer for all who called at the six principal public housen," explained Mr. Hirons, who used the ancient plural for 'houses'. "Tables laid in front of the housen, all for good o' the house, as they say." From his chuckles it was evident that those were grand times.

On the Wednesday in Whitsun week he recalled another gala season (Whitsun Ales ?) with more great doings which included "four bands playing in Church."

In January other junketings took place when rents were paid. William Wing's "Supplement to Marshall's Notes on Deddington" (published 1879) states that "the ox-roasting and hiring fair is abolished, but the November fair for hospitality, leather gaiters and puddings pies is well kept up."

In Walpole's British Traveller we find in the list of fairs, 'Doddington, August 21st (horses and sows). November 22nd. (ditto and swine).'