Amersham Charter Fair 2023

It’s nearly time for Amersham Charter Fair! Did you know that this Buckinghamshire market town was granted a fair by royal charter by King John in 1200? Thus by visiting, you are taking part in a tradition that is over 800 years old!
These photos give a glimpse of what the fair looked like in 1930 and 1925. The second picture was taken by celebrated local photographer George Ward. Many thanks to Amersham Museum for allowing us to share them here. To learn more about the history of Amersham Charter, please visit their website:

A large lady in a white overall with white hair tied in a bun and red rosy cheeks threw vast quantities of resinous cream-coloured candy over a shiny metal hook, blending a sweet that was plaited and cut before your very eyes.  DELICIOUS!

The galloping horses had portraits of eminent men adorning the whole apparatus – Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and Kitchener with his piercing blue eyes.  There were masses of polished brass and the music worked by cardboard with holes punched in it, changing every few minutes.

A fortune teller claiming descent from Gypsy Rose Lee proclaimed her ability to read tea leaves.  UGH!  A man with a monkey and a camera offered to take your photograph.  A man outside a huge tent extolled the excellence of his boxing champion.  Who would take him on?  Ten shillings was the offer to go one round, £5 to beat him inside three rounds.  This was the main event and people crowded in to support the local lad.

There were coconut shies with coconuts that had a certain reluctance to fall out.  The swing boats outside Butlers in Market Square always seemed to be in the same place.  In the background sounded the deeply melodic throb of the powerful Gardiner engine, powering and lighting the whole show.  Everywhere were chalk dogs, chalk dolls, china cups and plants, handfuls of them.

Fair folks are traditionalists too, not many come or go.  Each year the same families – George Irvins, Bakers, Pettigroves, Smiths, Lees – return.  I remember one young baby boy with brown eyes and jet black hair playing under the hoop-la stall.  He’s been on the same stall for about 35 years.  He will be there this year but his hair is starting to go white at the sides.

Ah memories!  I couldn’t finish without mentioning Mrs Rance’s fish and chips – the finale to the evening.  Thank you Mrs Rance.  I can still taste them to this day.