Appleby Horse Fair

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Washing the horses at Appleby Horse Fair
Caravans, including horse-drawn Vardoes at the Fair

The Appleby Horse Fair is held annually at Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria (until 1974 and historically Westmorland) in England.

History and location[edit]

The horse fair is held every year in early June and has taken place since the reign of James II of England, who granted a Royal charter in 1685 allowing a horse fair "near to the River Eden" Since then, around 15,000 English and Welsh gypsies, Scottish travellers and Irish travellers have converged each year to buy and sell horses, meet with friends and relations, and celebrate their similar lifestyles. Another 30,000 people visit the fair during the week.[1]

The fair is one of the oldest horse fairs in Britain. It is held outside the town at a crossroads on the Roman Road near to Gallows Hill (named after the public hangings that were once carried out there.) The event comprises Fair Hill itself, (the main Gypsy campsite, with some catering and trade) and the Market Field, which was opened up by a local farmer about ten years ago, and is now the main trading and catering area, together with half a dozen licensed campsites. Most horse trading takes place on Long Marton Road, (known as the ‘flashing lane’) where horses are shown off (or ‘flashed’ ) by trotting up and down the lane, and also on ‘the sands’, which is near the town centre beside the river Eden, where horses are ridden into the river to be washed.


The fair customarily ends on the second Wednesday in June, and starts on the Thursday before that. Although the last Tuesday was once the main horse dealing day, due to the growth of the market field and the large number of visitors, the main day is now the Saturday. Besides the horses, there are fortune tellers, palm readers, music stalls, clothing stalls, tools, china, stainless steel, and horse-related merchandise including harness and carriages.

The fair is a regular but spontaneous gathering, and is not organised by any individual or group, although the Gypsies and Travellers have a Shera Rom (Head Gypsy) who arranges toilets, rubbish skips, water supplies, horse grazing etc., and acts as liaison with the local authority co-ordinating committee (MASCG).


The horse fair generates some controversy with complaints of mess being left in the town,[2] violent crime[3] and animal cruelty.[4]

In 2014 there were 28 arrests at the fair, the lowest for several years, (for among other things, drug use, drunkenness, and obstruction) which senior police have confirmed is not disproportionate to other large scale public events. As regards rubbish and clean-up costs, although the trade stands leave a few tons of waste, the main market field and Fair Hill are cleaned of litter the day after the fair, at no cost to the ratepayers, and within a week there is hardly a trace that a fair has been held. As regards animal cruelty, the RSPCA patrols the fair scrupulously, and although in 2009 Animal Aid called for the fair to be banned,[5] nevertheless the instances of cruelty are few, and they are prosecuted where they do occur. Warnings and advice are given in borderline cases, and the very great majority of horses at the fair are well looked after, well treated, and in good condition.[6]


  1. ^ "Appleby Horse Fair". Appleby Fair Strategic Group. 
  2. ^ Bond, Anthony (2013-06-11). "Thousands of travellers decamp and leave rubbish carpeting Appleby, Cumbria | Mail Online". Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  3. ^ Armstrong, Jeremy (2009-06-09). "Over 100 arrests following mass brawl at Appleby horse fair - Mirror Online". Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  4. ^ Armstrong, Jeremy (2007-06-12). "Horse Drowned by Owner". Mirror Online. Retrieved 2014-06-26. 
  5. ^ "Appleby Horse Fair - Time to call a halt to this festival of animal abuse". 15 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Fewer incidents at Appleby Horse Fair but many more warnings given". Retrieved 2015-04-22. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°35′21″N 2°29′42″W / 54.5893°N 2.4950°W / 54.5893; -2.4950