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Shroton Fair

At one time, Shroton Fair was a most important event in the Dorset calendar. It was reckoned to be one of the finest in the West of England and became well-known for its sale of horses, sheep and dairy products. It also served as something of an employment exchange for the hire of agricultural labourers, grooms and servants. There were also entertainments such as roundabouts, swings, shooting galleries, fortune tellers and jugglers. 

In 1261, Shroton had received a grant from King Henry III allowing it to hold two annual fairs, one in May the other in September. While the former lapsed, the latter continued for many years.

The Portman Hunt would meet regularly at Shroton and participate fully in the Fair’s entertainments. Old North Dorset men would recall bygone events by the number of months that had occurred either before or after the event.

Both Thomas Hardy and William Barnes wrote of Shroton Fair as did the Reverend RW Bennett in 1926:

‘What an idyllic meeting place! The greater part of the village lies to the rear, and the chief outlook is to the noble height of Hambledon Hill, girdled with many lines of ancient British earthworks, while northward stretch the lines of the Dorset Heights to Melbury Hill and Shaftesbury.’

There could be the occasional altercation as occurred in September 1933. A battle royal broke out at the coconut stand between two families resulting in two men being knocked out and others being taken away injured.

While Shroton Fair is no more its role has perhaps now been taken over by the Dorset Steam Fair.

(Illustrations: Society Ladies try their luck at the coconut stand – Tatler October 1926 and Captain Livingstone-Learmonth of the Portman Hunt enjoys all the fun of Shroton Fair – Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News October 1932)


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