Cuckoo Fair History

The annual Downton Cuckoo Fair has been running for over a quarter of a century in its current format, and attracts up to 20,000 people to our village for Maypole, morris dancing and folk entertainment. The event also features over 250 craft stalls and craft demonstrations, line dancing, street entertainment, music, the Downton Brass Band and plenty for the children, including clowns, a bouncy castle and roundabouts.

Traditionally the arrival of the cuckoo was seen as the onset of good weather and the Downton tradition of "opening the gate" to let the cuckoo through is the basis of the fair.

Factually the Downton fairs are first recorded in 1249 and in 1289 a fair was claimed on the eve, day and morrow of St. Laurence (9th-11th April). Early fairs died out and in 1676 two annual fairs were granted on 12th April and 21st September. When the term Cuckoo Fair came to be used seems to be unknown, as is any possible links with pagan festivities. The Cuckoo Princess only dates from the revival of the fair in 1980 but there may have been an earlier Cuckoo King.

 

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