View my own personal story and experience at Appleby 2010
Appleby (located in
Cumbria, England) was originally known as the County Town of Westmorland. It
developed after the time of the Norman Conquest by virtue of its strategic
geographical location. It is an ancient town, set in a great loop of the
River Eden, protected on the South side by the Norman Castle, sheltered from
the East by the High Pennines and from the West by the Lakeland Fells. It is
situated by the main East-to-West Roman Road in the Eden Valley. Today,
Appleby is an attractive and picturesque market town endowed with much
charm. It is an area that enjoys a somewhat milder and drier climate than
most of Cumbria. Appleby's uncommonly wide main street, Boroughgate, has
been described as one of the finest in all of England. This
thoroughfare...an avenue of mature lime trees planted in the 1870s...runs
from the North end of the town, the location of the main shopping area
(which has been the town's market since 1174), to the South end of the town
by the entrance to Appleby Castle. The beginning and end of Boroughgate are
marked by the "Low Cross" and the "High Cross." These Crosses mark the
original boundaries of the market. Appleby can claim its beginnings from the
time of the Celts, Romans and Vikings.
by 25 acres of parkland, Appleby Castle has stood guard over the Eden Valley
since the time of the Normans. It is the stronghold of the Clifford Lords,
formerly owned by English Kings, as well as being seized by the King of
Scotland. Erected when William II won the majority of Westmoreland from the
Scots in 1092, Abbpleby Castle is an impressive building of which the Keep,
known as Caesar's Tower, is the oldest. However, perhaps the most striking
feature is the Dwelling House, which was built in the late 17th Century. The
grounds themselves contain magnificent walks with a wide variety of rare
breeds of sheep, goats, pheasants, hens, ducks, geese and teals...together
with a splendid specimen of the Weeping Cedar.
Appleby Horse Fair
(the largest traditional horse fair of its kind in the world) was set up by
Charter under the reign of James II in 1685 and has been an annual event
since that time. Originally, it was a venue for the trading of all types of
livestock and general merchandise. Its popularity with the large numbers of
gypsies who would come each year eventually led to the occasion being known
as a specialist horse fair. Today, Appleby Fair is the venue of one the
largest remaining gatherings of Romany and gypsy people. The event is held
during the second week of June, beginning on the Wednesday of that week and
with the main horse sale on the Tuesday of the following week. Harness races
and celebrations lead up to this sale day and horses are lead trotting up
and down the lanes in order to show them off prior to the sales. The field
which is the main site for the participants is found on the outskirts of
Appleby. It was originally known as Gallows Hill, due to the nature of its
usage in earlier times. However, it is now called Fair Hill and looks West
over the town of Appleby and East toward the Pennines.
the two weeks of the Fair, horses may be found everywhere...in the river, on
its banks, along the green, on roadsides and lanes, or even tethered outside
hotels, shops and public houses (the local taverns). The ownership of a
horse can, by wheeling and dealing, change several times throughout the
course of the Fair and sales are usually clinched with a slap on the hand,
after a one-to-one bartering rather than a traditional type of auction.
About the Gypsies and Travellers:
There are a number of different
Gypsy groups visiting the Fair. The Romani Gypsies, or Romani
Chal, are an ethnic group made up of extended families, whose
origins are traced back to Northern India over 1 000 years ago.
Each extended family will have its own Head Gypsy or Sheara Rom.
The second major group is the Travellers. Their ethnic origins
are unclear, but it is widely thought that they were in Britain
before 1506, when the first Romani arrived in Scotland. It has
been suggested that the ancestors of the Travellers brought
ironworking and blacksmithing into Britain. The Travellers share
a very similar culture to the Romani, however, their ethnic
origin is different, and therefore they belong to different
families. The Traveller community also includes Irish Travellers,
Scottish Travellers and Welsh Gypsies, (who call themselves
Kale, and who have been in Britain since about 1400). Each of
these cultures has its own distinct family groups.
You can find out more about the
history, culture and lifestyles of Gypsies and Travellers during
the Fair itself through a project called Education on the Hoof,
which holds free events during the Fair.
for more details.
Appleby Fair coincides with
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month, which is designed
to help people understand and celebrate the role Britain’s
300,000 Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have played in living,
working and travelling throughout Britain for the last 500
years. To find out more visit
Appleby Fair has been held for certain since 1750, and probably for very
much longer than that. It is held for one week every year from the first
Thursday in June until the second Wednesday and is world famous, the largest
Fair of its kind in Europe.
It is an annual event attended by Romany and Irish families travelling to
meet up with old friends, celebrate their music, history and folklore and
conduct business - particularly buying and selling horses.
Traditionally Gypsies and Travellers reside on Fair Hill (a field situated
on the outskirts of the town) and trade horses, running them on public roads
so they can display them to prospective purchasers. Young people wash the
horses in the River Eden to get them ready to show to prospective buyers. In
the evening Fair Hill glows, with campfires flickering among the horsedrawn
Gypsies and Travellers
Because of the diverse nature of the Gypsy and Traveller
population, these representatives on the committee do not wield
absolute power, or a magic wand, but because the Fair is such a
vital and important part of their culture, they have a real
interest is seeing it continue, and so will go to some lengths
to help solve genuine problems where and when they arise.
Visitors to the Fair may well hear a variety of languages being
spoken there. As well as English, many speak Romany and you
might also hear English Cant, Irish Cant, Shelta, Welsh Romani,
as well as French and German, as the visiting families are
widely spread over Europe.
There is some intermarrying between Traveller families and Gypsy
families, and they share a number of common characteristics – for example
skill with horses, strongly defined gender roles, and strong moral values
regarding courtship, the sanctity of marriage, and loyalty and honour.
In addition to these ethnic groups, there is another large group
who are not part of the Gypsy and Traveller families, but who
have adopted Gypsy ways. They are not ‘blood’ Gypsies, but ‘new’