Calculating the date of the Abingdon Fair

There have been a few questions about how the date is determined for the October fairs, with many people insisting that the town council seem to occasionally hold it on the wrong date.

The date of fairs held in Abingdon are set by Section 38 of the Oxfordshire Act 1985, a private bill of parliament. Private bills are those that only affect specific individuals or organisations – in this case the local authorities of Oxfordshire. S. 38 reads:

Crown copyright information, provided by Parliamentary Archives

The wording is a bit archaic but if you read the text it’s clear that “next before” means something other than “falling on, or next before” so “Monday next before 11th” must mean the Monday before the 11th, but not the 11th if it’s a Monday.

This wording means that the fair is in the first whole week of October if the 11th is a Monday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, but in the second week if the 11th is a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – roughly every three out of every seven years. The earliest the fair can be is the is the 4th and 5th of October (when the 11th is a Monday), and the latest is the 10th and 11th (when the 11th is a Tuesday, as it is in 2016). 

Here’s a blog post showing similar confusion in 2011 when the fair was also this late, and there are photos of the fair showing that the fair was also held as late as the 10th and 11th in 2005.

But this isn’t what I remember…

This has been the system for reckoning the date of the fair since this law was passed in 1985. I imagine that it has been in use since 1986.

But the ancient town charter…

The Oxfordshire Act of 1985 has precedence over any town charter. There’s also no single town charter.

The Oxfordshire Act of 1985 also gives the Town Council the powers that allow them to control fisheries and moorings along the stretch of Thames in Abingdon.

Categorized as abingdon