News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
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Author Topic: Horn Fair Charlton Kent  (Read 578 times)

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Offline smiffy

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Re: Horn Fair Charlton Kent
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2018, 01:35:58 »
A fascinating slice of social history from a "stolen" piece of Kent. It would be interesting to know what would have been considered rude and indecent in those days. :)

By the way, thanks for the link to Lisa Knapp - a lovely girl with a beautiful voice.

Offline HERB COLLECTOR

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Horn Fair Charlton Kent
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2018, 22:19:55 »
Charlton is noted for the fair held in its neighbourhood on St. Lukes-day, Octob. 18. called Horn fair; the rudeness of which, in a civilized, well-governed nation, may well be said to be insufferable. The mob at that time takes all kinds of liberties, and the women are especially impudent that day; as if it was a day that justify'd the giving themselves a loose to all manner of indecency without any reproach, or without incurring the censure which such behaviour would deserve at another time.
           From A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, Vol 1. 1724-27. Daniel Defoe.

The market (granted by king Henry lll. to the priory of Bermondsey, to be held here on a Monday weekly) has been discontinued a long time, as well as the fair, which was granted at the same time, as mentioned above. In the room of the latter (In place of the latter) there is a fair held at this place yearly on St. Luke's-day, October 18, called Horn Fair, and at which there are sold rams-horns, and all sorts of toys made of horn. It consists of a riotous mob, who, after a printed summons dispersed through the several towns and country round about, meet at Cuckold's-point, near Deptford, and march from thence in procession through that town and Greenwich to Charlton, with horns of various kinds upon their heads. This assembly used to be infamous for rudeness and indecency, but is now much less so, by the endeavours of the constables, who are ordered to attend.
          From The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent Vol l, 1797, Edward Hasted.

Participants from the London area would start off from Cockold's Point on the most northerly part of the Rotherhite peninsula, where a post surmounted by a pair of horns marked the start. Some would go by boat, while others would make their way to Charlton via Deptford and Black Heath Hill. The procession was loud and raucous, many would be in fancy dress, including cross-dressing, and blowing and wearing horns. Once at Charlton they would march around the church, where a sermon was preached, before making their way to the fair ground.

The original site of the fair was the Charlton village green. When this was enclosed within the grounds of Charlton House in 1829 the fair moved to a nearby field, now known as Hornfair Park. Because of the drunken rowdy behaviour the fair was suppressed in 1874. The fair was resurrected in 1973 in a more genteel family friendly fashion.

The fair is held on the 18th October, the feast day of St Luke, St Luke's being Charlton's parish church. Traditionally St Luke is shown accompanied by an ox or bull, hence the horns blown and worn by the participants.
At some point the fair seems to have become associated with the story of King John and the millers wife, hence the raucus behavior.
I suspect that the fair started out as a religious fair, then becoming, no doubt to the horror of the clergy, more noisy and disorderly.

        Daniel Defoe again.
A vulgar tradition gives the following origin to this disorderly fair: it pretends to say, that one of the kings of England, some say, King John, who had a palace in this neighbourhood, at Eltham, being a hunting near Charlton, then a pitiful hamlet only, and separated from his attendants, entered into a cottage, and found the mistress of it alone; and she being handsome, the king took a liking to her, and having prevailed over her modesty, just in the critical moment, her husband came in; and vowing to kill them both, and the king was forced to discover himself, and to compound with gold for his safety, giving him moreover all the land from thence as far as the place now called Cuckold's Point; and making him master of the whole hamlet, established a fair in favour of his new demesne; and in memory thereof, horns, and wares, and toys of all sorts made of horn, are sold at this fair.

A cuckold is the husband of an adulterous wife. In Western traditions, cuckolds have sometimes been described as "wearing the horns of a cuckold" or just "wearing the horns".

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