Tavistock Goose Fair on Wednesday (Oct 10, 2018) means a couple of days of difficulty in travelling next week – but for those who would rather stay home, the Leaping Salmon is planning a goose dinner in the evening.
The goose dinner is a Fair Day tradition which was once kept up by almost every hostelry in Tavistock.
But even the Bedford Hotel does not do one nowadays – partly because the owners keep geese as pets at their Two Bridges hotel and would feel bad about it.
Almost nobody else does either and a goose roll is probably as close as you will get in the town.
In the old days, it might have been rabbit meat fried up in goose fat. But the point was the taste of roasted goose – the proper bird, before America discovered the turkey, for feasting on a fair day and taking home to fatten for Christmas.
Geese were driven into town from all directions, along with sheep and ponies and other livestock, and then the money earned was spent in the pubs and at the fair. At its height, by all accounts, the town was a riot of travellers, matelots, marines and farmers, getting primed for a good fight. An old pub, The White Hart, now the pasty shop opposite Creber’s deli, used to take its doors off the hinges for the day so everyone could get in and brawls could fall outside. And fairground men, often West Indian or gypsy, would take on all comers for a wager in boxing and wrestling tents, up to the 1950s at least. We’re looking for a picture of a legendary Plymouth fighter called Charlie Case who was a local favourite for some years.
Early in the 20th century, reports began to lament a shortage of geese and since the 1960s it is generally agreed the fair has lost a lot of colour and variety, and some local interest. But the coaches keep coming and Tavistock Town Council is stuck with it and it earns the town enough that nobody is likely to shut it down in the foreseeable, according to town councillors.
The new owners of the livestock auction, Stagg’s, who took it over from Ward & Chowen, will continue the effort to keep a bit of country fair going in their yard at top of Pixon Lane- a poultry auction, sheep shearing, some ponies on show and a few stalls selling country clothing and so on. And this year the renovated Butchers Hall off Bedford Square will hold an indoor crafts and food market which might improve the mix.
Meanwhile the Leaping Salmon team have picked up on nostalgia for a bit of roast goose and have decided to go for it. Price to be set. Booking advised. Ring 01822 851541, or email firstname.lastname@example.org/
Access to Tavistock by car will be severely restricted from 5pm Tuesday evening to 7 am Thursday morning, to allow for setting up and clearing up. The usual service buses will run throughout but will turn round at Drake’s statue. The local park-and-ride site is Yelverton’s old airfield and a shuttle will run between there and Tavistock throughout fair day but will not stop at Horrabridge.
Fullish details of traffic restrictions, limited parking and subsidised bus services, at https://www.tavistock.gov.uk/council-services/goose-fair
And in this poster …
On the day, parking at Yelverton will be free but the special 300 shuttle service will cost £2.50 return for adults and 50p for children – free passes suspended. Dogs allowed and most buses accessible to wheelchairs and prams.
The service into Tavistock starts 8.55 am and runs every 10 minutes to 12.30 pm, then every 20 minutes to 16.50, then every 10 minutes again until last run at 22.05.
The return, from Pixon Lane, is on a similar timetable starting at 08.55 and making last run back at 22.30.
Taxi ranks will be operating from several temporary locations in Tavistock centre.
Some parking available, from £5 per car, at Tavistock Football Club and Tavistock College, but we haven’t got the details here.
Four years ago, The Bridge magazine had an incomer’s view of the fair which can still be found at