A day at Bude fair in 1907

By Dawn Robinson-Walsh:

Thinking back to 28th September, 1907, which is of course before any of our memories.

In the Cornish & Devon Post of that day is a description of the fairground at Bude, which took place on a Monday.

It seems there was fine summer weather and those attended numbered in their thousands. Obviously, the fair was a big event for the town, whereas now we tend to see it as taking up space on Summerleaze car park. But it was also different in nature, with lots of stalls and street vendors. It also went on very late!

Bude Fair 1911

The article said:

The usual stalls and booths lined the Strand; and cheap-jacks drew large crowds. 

I had to look up cheap-jacks (though it was a phrase my mother used). Investopedia defines it thus:

“Cheap Jack” and “cheapjack” are colloquial terms used to describe peddlers or street vendors operating outside of the formal economy. Existing throughout the history of the exchange of goods, a cheapjack peddler is often seen as itinerant, making direct contact with potential customers as opposed to operating from a fixed, brick-and-mortar place of business.

The article continues:

An auctioneer in a silk hat was very successful in attracting money from the country folk, in exchange for cheap watches and jewellery… an anatomical lecture, assisted by gruesome diagrams, assisted the sale of a patent specific. A St Breward man did a roaring trade in braces.  

During the afternoon, the holidaymakers collected like bees on the Breakwater, leaving the Summerlease side practically deserted (imagine as it is now reversed).

Some of them tried boating on the Canal; and the steam roundabouts and all the fun of the fair were kept going until midnight. The refreshment rooms were busy providing supper from tea until eleven o’clock. Up to midnight and past, the roads leading out of Bude were alive with vehicular traffic. The road through Stratton was occupied with a procession of wagonettes, traps and carts, and when traffic was going the other way, and particularly when a motor car came panting along towards Bude, the pedestrians about had a rough time of it. 

A cattle fair was held during the day; but the bulk of the people were on pleasure bent rather than business intent. There was a football match in the afternoon between Bude and Holsworthy, which was won by the visitors; but the excitement which the contest evoked among spectators was not shared in by the country folk, the greater part of whom swarmed by the sea. 

Bude Fair 1900s

An alternative account added the following:

  • There were not as many people attending as previously.
  • Stalls and standings were very numerous and did good business in the marsh.
  • Steam horses (?) and accompanying shows had a busy time.
  • The cattle was represented by about 20 sheep.
  • Holsworthy won the exciting football match.
  • The orderliness of the day was commented on by visitors.
  • The surveyor and his staff cleared up the large amount of rubbish left by the stalls. It was all swept up before 8 am on the following (Tuesday) morning.

Bude Fair 2015



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