Living memories ... St. Giles Fair

Reminiscences recorded as part of an adult education class in Jericho.

Posted - October 05, 1996

“I can remember my uncle taking us from Jericho to see the ‘Drawing In’. It was in the middle of the night almost, and these huge machines were moving into St. Giles.”

“The railway used to run trips from as far afield as London to St. Giles Fair. And all round the rural areas. They’d have fairs of their own, but nothing like St. Giles.”

“In the menagerie up by St. Giles Church they had all sorts of things: lions, tigers and elephants. There was a whale there one year I remember, just on a lorry, and it smelt awful - ‘the Huge Monster of the Deep’. The flea circus was quite funny because you couldn’t see them. The chap would give a commentary. He’d say: ‘Watch this one now, he’ll JUMP - and he’s over’, but you couldn’t see anything. And you’d be paralysed in case you brought a flea away with you.”

“For years and years there was a family of cowboys. All ginger-haired. And there was a chap dressed as a Red Indian who would throw big axes. The old man had a gun. He used to shoot clay pipes out of the girl’s mouth.”

“During the fair all the steam engines would be going, fired up with coal and water. The rides would cost 1d, 2d, nothing more. We used to save up through the five weeks holiday. Summer holidays were always five weeks - and two days for the fair.”

“We’d always buy a ‘fairing’ for our mother. If we couldn’t win it we had to buy it. My fairing would always be banbury cakes. She loved them, they were the genuine ones from Banbury.”

Did you know?

Margaret Thatcher used to live here?

In her Oxford days, she lived at 12 Richmond Road. It is alleged she shared the house with two red-hot communists who lived on a diet of sausages. This may account for her later views on socialists and known dislike of sausages.

How religious we are?

In the 2001 Census, some 50% of Jericho residents said they were Christian, 2.2% Muslim, 1.9% Buddhist and 1.2% professed other religions, while 34% of people said they had no religion. In Oxford as a whole the proportion with no religion was 24%.