London likes to think of itself as a series of villages strung together to make a big city. In many ways, this representation is probably accurate.
In our neck of the woods, for example, Hampstead and Highgate both started off villages outside the city of London itself. Hampstead, for example, was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small farm. A village sprung up around Hampstead which reached its peak of popularity in the early 18th century when it was marketed as a spa town. The clean country air and fresh water from its wells was touted as recuperative for all sorts of diseases. Highgate started off as a group of taverns along one of the main roads to the north of England. This road went through the Bishop of London’s hunting estate and he charged a toll for the privilege of passing through his land. By the 20th century, both Hampstead and Highgate were swallowed up by the urban sprawl of London.
The whole village thing comes to the forefront when these areas do their summer fairs (or fayres as Marylebone insists in ye old English). We always go to the fairs because they are family-friendly fun for a nice day out.
The fairs really come into their own with the amazing quality and variety of food stalls available. It may be a village fair, but in this town, the villagers have an eclectic palate. I was spoiled for choice. I’ve not had Okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake snack) since I lived in Japan and, of course, I love a good Mac & Cheese.
When I think of English summer, I think of drinking Pimms, Mr. N prefers beer and the kids are all over the strawberries with cream.
What would a village fair be without cute animals? At Highgate, it was a sheep-shearing show and in Marylebone it was a petting zoo.
Of course, there are fairground rides and other amusements for children. A lot of the money raised goes to charity. For example, Marylebone was raising money for Kids Company which works with vulnerable children and Highgate had a variety of local charities being sponsored.
I thought this “guess the property price” game from Savills in Marylebone was a very London game. When compared to other parts of the country, it was pretty depressing to compare prices.
I didn’t know that every area of London has their own Pearly Kings and Queens. The Pearlies, distinguished by their costumes of intricately sewn buttons, are part of the working class culture of raising money for charity. I always thought it was an East End thing but here are a couple of Pearly Kings from Highgate looking very dapper.
The crowded streets are always good for local stores. The stores are open and occasionally even have offers to entice passers by. The estate agents in Marylebone must be doing well because they were handing out free popcorn and free candy to passers by.
We always enjoy going to these fairs. We went to the Primrose Hill fair last month and Hampstead’s fair is coming up in the beginning of July. They are a part of our summer landscape when living here in London. Will you be going to a summer fair where you live?