A Review of Reach "Fair Day", taken from the Cambridge Weekly News, 13th May 1904

REACH Fair When in 1200 King John favoured the burgesses of Cambridge by granting the charter empowering them to collect tolls at Reach Fair he conferred upon them a valuable asset. The mart was then of considerable magnitude, the traders many and the buyers multitudinous. From the tolls which traders paid for groundage at so much a foot, for leather at so much per "dicker" brought into the market, for wools, flails, cheese, waggons, cattle and other commodities the - burgesses must have reaped substantial benefit. Under such circumstances the satisfaction of solemnly proclaiming the fair - a custom which finds a parallel in the latter-day distinguished person declaring a bazaar open - is easily understood. But with the march of time has come the decadence of annual marts or fairs. With the march of time also has come the decadence in revenue of which the considerate John decided Cambridge was deserving; such decadence that the Borough instead of deriving benefit is out of pocket through shedding the civic benefit over the village fair. Still the ancient custom, one of the many the Borough proudly possesses, is observed every Rogation Monday and it has at least the advantage of imparting to Reach Fair pomp and circumstance it would otherwise lack, of making glad the hearts of children en route with much sprinklings of copper coin, of affording members of the Corporation pleasing relaxation from weighter cares and of increasing the profits of - proprietors of pleasure fair paraphernalia, particularly those of owners of cocoanuts shies. The fair this year was smaller than ever. Trading in horses constitutes practically the only business part of it, and the animals were on Monday - in market parlance - in short supply. The members of the Corporation who made the journey for the proclamation ceremony were: The Deputy Mayor (Mr P.H.Young), Aldermen A Deck, G.Peck and W.P.Spalding,. Councillors F.Banyard, J.Catling, Newton Digby, E.Field, R.F.Freeman, H.J.Gray, A.Maltby, Fred Morley, R.Starr, E.A.Wadsworth, W.J.Wallis with the Town Clerk (Mr J.E.L.Whitehead), the Clerk of the Peace (Mr R.C.Burrows) and the Borough Accountant (Mr W.C.Gait). Their drive was triumphal in nature and their distribution of coppers a source of much rejoicing. All along the route commencing with the Barnwell end of the town, continuing through Quy, past Lode, through the two Swaffhams to reach, Rogation Monday is remembered as the day when a smart cavalcade of gentlemen, wearing robes with dignity, silk hats, and benignant smiles, distribute Largesse as they sweep by. The distribution commenced before the Borough boundaries were past. Then there was a lull of a few miles broken only by be respectful salutations of the workmen in the new cemetry on Ditton Corner. The village of Quy showed however a scene of eager expectation. Here young and middle-aged matrons joined in the jubilant scramble for copper. One good lady who spoke gleefully of the "tu'pence" she seized last year improvised step dance not yet seen on the stage as a special inducement for coin to come her way, meanwhile holding out her capacious white apron as a receptacle for freewill offerings. At the school the children packed themselves along the wall which borders the road and raised simultaneous shouts of welcome and entreaties for spending money. The Lode scholars who had the advantage of a holiday for the occasion, went one better. They almost, encroached on the Quy
preserves for they wandered far up ;the road-to meet the procession, which they welcomed with a shrill chant of "Please - sir - pray - sir" and after picking up the money which fell to their lot, scuttled after the last carriage as fast as their small limbs would allow them in hopes of more. So the comedy continued, with slight variations to the formula of entreaty until the scene of action was reached. Here the carriages drew up at the side of the village green, and the Town Clerk, from the eminence of the banked path, read in the name of Mr Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses of Cambridge, the proclamation which "doth strictly charge and commend" various things nobody heeds, among others "that idle and evilly-disposed persons should henceforth quit". No desire to quit, however, has ever been observed, the assumption being that there are no persons to whom the description applies. In two places the proclamation is made.Tradition gives the reason for the repetition that upon one remote occasion the roads were so bad that Mr Mayor and Aldermen, and the Cambridge burgesses did not get to Reach to bestow the Borough benizon to this carnival, and that to obviate the calamity, it was ordered that the proclamation should be made in two places so that if the road to one spot were impassable, another might be taken. After the proclamation the members of the Corporation sedately surveyed the small fair. The greatest attraction before lunch was the loquacity of a quack who, after paying one or two people a shilling each for the privilege of extracting their unsound teeth, did a brisk trade among the crowd he thus collected selling patent medicine for most of the ills of mankind. Subsequent to lunch the business was regarded less seriously. Lest it should be imagined that the Borough Fathers lunched at the town's expense, it should be explained that for some years it has been the custom for the Mayor to provide the refreshment. Thus it was this year. A few frolicsome Councillors and at least one venerable alderman demonstrated with thoroughness to the admiring notice of other visitors how to shie at cocoanuts. Reach Fair was still worth visiting during these merry moments. The aim of the august visitors may not be quite as accurate as in their more youthful days, but greater determination and a longer pocket in the end secured them a supply of the nuts. Meanwhile others had strolled to the comparative seclusion of the shooting range and organized a miniature Bisley meeting. Toothsome Reach rock and other delicacies proffered for sale found purchases among the party and in the end, some of whom knew from experience the advantage of civic patronage, were well satisfied with the proceeds of the brief rejuvenation of the town visitors.