Ditchling Fair

The first Ditchling Fair was held back in 1312, when a Royal Charter was granted by Edward II to Earl John de Warenne to hold a fair to celebrate the Eve, Day and Morrow of the Feast of St Margaret. It was a pretty good money-earner for the Earl, who took a cut of the turnover made by the stall-holders. There would have been jousting, falconry displays and stalls selling all manner of goods, from beaver skins to roasted pig. And a lot of drinking. The fair has had its ups and downs since – it disappeared for a while in the 18th century – and is now held every two years.

It’s quite a bash, which goes on from 8.30 in the morning to 10 at night. Highlights include a Jack and Jill Race (where cross-dressing couples have to fill a well with water from a leaky bucket), and a scarecrow competition - village residents have turned the production of these farmyard manikins into quite an art-form. There is a children’s fancy-dress competition, and a procession, which is headed by riders in Napoleonic military gear, who are adept on cutting cabbage heads off sticks at speed. Ditchling’s most famous resident, Dame Vera Lynn, the Forces Sweetheart, will be addressing the crowd and giving out prizes. In the afternoon there will be maypole dancing, as well as folk and ceilidh music; the evening concludes with a chill-out disco. Nowadays the money raised doesn’t go straight into the local aristocracy’s pocket, instead helping fund the Ditchling Village Association. AG

Ditchling: even the scarecrows are posh
Ditchling Village
When? 8.30am-10pm
How Much? Free