The Easter Fair in Blackburn
In Blackburn As It Is, Peter Whittle described the fair of 1849 in great detail:
'We are sure the good folks of Blackburn have lacked nothing at the late fair which could administer to the annual enjoyment of life. The fair drew together a numerous assemblage of shows, altogether comprising a strange medley of things, both animate and inanimate. There was to be seen the big-headed girl, rabbit-eyed children, and a lady giantess. Also panoramic representations of the most conflicting actions which have taken place in China and India'
Added to these were performing birds and a box pavillion where the noble art of self-defence was taught in six easy lessons. Ring tossing, pop-gun shooting for nuts, high-fly swinging, and sword swallowing, not forgetting beer-swilling, for which purpose it was to be purchased 'in every hole and corner that could be made available for the placing of a beer cask'
Nuts, oranges, sheep's trotters, toffee, ginger-bread and toy stalls were likewise abundant, many of them fitted up with false lottery boxes, wheels of fortune, and other contrivances to suit the tastes of a gullible multitude. Fiddles sent forth their squalling notes from the apertures of the public-houses and beer-shops, where fantastic-toed ladies and gentlemen delighted to luxuriate in the mazy dance'
We hope the fair may indeed have served some good purpose 'It has certainly furnished a pretext for the out-burst of annual excitement which is seized upon with such unabated gusto by a large portion of the humbler classes.'
As can be seen, the concept of an agricultural fair or show had by now been eclipsed by pure entertainment for the industrial working class population of the town. By 1852, the venue had moved to the New Market Square, where it remained until well into the 1960s, its character having changed little over the intervening century, bar the addition of more advanced mechanical rides.