Weyhill
There is no legal parish called Weyhill so the village is in name only and can be found a couple of miles from Andover right on the border between Penton Grafton and Penton Mewsey parish.

The church here is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels and is the parish church of Penton Grafton.

The Weyhill Fair is well known in the county and it was the largest fair in the country for the number of sheep that were sold, and also famed for its hops and brewing. Good job there were five public houses here and a load more on the fairground itself!

 

The church of St Michael and All Angels

Weyhill Fair

Entrance to the Weyhill Fair 1900 shows the entrance to Weyhill Fair
and a 'Little Giant', traction-engine made by Taskers of Anna Valley.
(Photos kindly supplied by Anthony Raper, Andover)

The Fair can be traced back into the annals of pre-history and meetings were held on and around the fairground site from at least 1500 BC. Archaeological evidence also shows that continuous settlement had been here through both the Roman and Saxon eras. The fairground is crossed by two important and primitive roads, from west to east is the Harrow Way and north to south is the Gold Road.

Harrow Way is often referred to as the Pilgrims Way and is said to have originated near Penzance in Cornwall and stretched right across southern England to Dover in Kent and this is the route that the pilgrims took to Thomas Beckett's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Gold Road is a local name and this started at Holyhead and ended on the South Coast and was mainly a series of drift ways and packroads and Welsh and Irish gold was transported along this to be shipped to Europe. Drift roads converged on the fairground and brought traffic from Farnham, Winchester, Southampton, Salisbury, Marlborough, Hungerford and Newbury and Weyhill was a perfect for travellers could stop and trade goods and animals,

It has been described in the great atlas of 1720 as "the greatest fair in the Kingdom" and Daniel Defoe said of Weyhill  "...where the greatest fair for sheep is kept that this nation can show".

It was also used by Thomas Hardy in "The Mayor of Casterbridge" as Weydon

Thomas Hardy used Weyhill as the scene for the wife-selling incident in his book 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', renaming it as Weydon

The Weyhill Cheesefair 1890. The very tall gentleman wearing the
top hat is Frederick Tabor, Steward of the Fair.
 
(Photos kindly supplied by Anthony Raper, Andover)


The fair grew from serving the needs of the local farms to what is now a huge supermarket where you could buy practically anything imaginable.  There was also a sheep, horse and a 'beasts' fair as well as a cheese fair, hop fair, mop fair and even a pleasure fair! The fair was later incorporated into one of Andovers charters which caused a legal battle that lasted form 1675 to 1688. The land was owned by Ewelme Hospital in Oxford and was leased to Frederick Tabor. When Taylor did he bequeathed his holding to his children.

Stories about the fair abound, and crime was rife here, one tale was about a policeman who was supposed to be guarding the stock and was caught in the act of 'appropriating a fine Cheddar cheese'. Mr Tabor soon solved this problem as he had taken lease of the Ramridge Rights in 1816 and built enclosed cheese rows at the end of the hop rows. The Fair saw signs of serious decline at the beginning of the 20th century sheep sales were down the hop fair was also failing the only thing that seemed to draw in the crowds was the pleasure fair but even that was lower than what it had been thirty years previous. In 1909 the practice of bartering for sheep was stopped and selling by auction began and in the same year electric lights replaced the paraffin lighting, by the 1920s the cheese dealers had left and the fate of the fair looked bad, but it hung on due to the pleasure fair.

The pleasure fair had all the usual attractions and the favourite among the local people was the boxing booth, Joe Beckett who later became Heavyweight Champion of England often took lodgings in Weyhil Road in the town so he could visit the boxing booth here, Freddie Mills began his boxing career in the boxing booths at Weyhill just after the end of the Second World War.

The fair continued to fall into decline and the introduction of the car seemed to seal its fate as people did not want to go to the fair but to have excursions further afield, television also played its part and the last cattle sale that was held by Herberts the Auctioneers of Andover was in July 1950.

The fairground site was leased to a local man called Dunning after it was closed and then became a builders yard and  then a farm, In the 1990s A. J. Dunning was put into liquidation and the fair site stayed closed until it was re-opened as a small business estate then this was acquired for development.
MORE INFORMATION ON WEYHILL FAIR