WE start off by pointing out that in the 1800s, Over was an important town. Winsford was a small hamlet, High Street was called Over Lane, and Delamere Street was an ancient thoroughfare. 

Going back beyond the day that the locals played football with the head of the Abbot of Vale Royal, who it must be said was not a very nice man.
So they had a fair; they had permission to hold it from King Edward I in the year of grace, 1280. 

He granted a charter for it to be held on Wednesdays to the Abbott and convent of Vale Royal, which was within the old parish of Over (Whitegate parish was later taken out of the Over parish by an Act of Parliament). 

The same charter also granted the right to hold a fair on the festival of the exultation of the Holy Cross; this could last for three days. 

In the late 1800s, these fairs were still enjoyed on May 15 and September 25. The fairs were fun in many ways; what better way to give an idea of the goings-on than quote from the Northwich Guardian dated Saturday, May 19, 1877?

On Tuesday evening last, numbers of respectable persons were at the Fair, and the queerest part of it is that most of them seemed ashamed of being seen where they were. There were shooting galleries, swinging boats, nuts, gingerbread, tripe and trotters, fat women, boxing, and the cheap Johns were to be seen in grand style. The number of people seen eating dainty fried fish was astonishing. 

The Over Fair Ground for stalls shows and so on, attached to the George and Dragon Inn will be open as usual, posted the proprietor Edward Edwards. 

Winsford Guardian:

The George and Dragon on Delamere Street 1920-25

In September 1876, applications had to be made to George Hamlett of the Black Bear for shows, exhibitions and so on (The Black Bear is the white house at the Over Square end of Delamere Street). 

All these jollities were in the evening. During the day, it was time for selling cattle, sheep and produce from farms across Cheshire. 

One story is told that in 1888 two cows escaped and went for a walk around the town. At that time, there was a beerhouse on High Street (ex Over Lane) owned by a Mrs Stoneley, and the thirsty cows decided to go in for a drink. 

One of them turned into the bar while the other made for the snug. Unfortunately, the door was not wide enough, and she got stuck. A man had to climb across her back and force her out. She broke the door in the process! 

Winsford Guardian:

Four Lane Ends with the Black Bear pub in the background

On Tuesday, May 15, 1866, there was a sale of sheep, cattle and hogs in the field at the rear of the Black Bear Inn, now known as The Grange Estate. The sale also included 20 iron bedsteads and other furniture. 

Ten years later, at the rear of The Wheatsheaf, another sale is recorded, and Mr Arrowsmith required entries to be delivered to him, the pub or the auctioneer in Nantwich. 

In the late 1800s, fairs were dying out across the county, and the Over one was becoming less popular. The great and good from Mid Cheshire’s many halls together with the more affluent farmers attended with their livestock during the day for competitions and sales, Lord Delamere won £1/10s for having the best young boar. It Could be likened to the Cheshire Show today and was almost as well attended.

At night, it was time for the cottagers or working people to have a damn good blowout; the pubs, fairground attractions, and the like did a roaring trade. 

But going back to the Guardian, by 1902, the Over fair had reduced in popularity as it competed with the Altrincham Agricultural show and the new Cheshire Show on the Chester Roodee that attracted the Mid Cheshire farmers. 

By May 10, 1947, the Over Fair was still going but not as busy as the earlier ones. It was based at Four Lane Ends on the field at the top of the High Street with stalls down the High St and Delamere Street. 

Winsford Guardian:

Delamere Street in 1920

Four years later, the fair offered a big wheel, speedway, dodgems and children’s rides. The poorly paid salt workers and farm labourers could at least have one or two days of fun and frolics thanks to the good King Edward 1. The landed gentry, however, in their stately homes, were a dying breed. The Cheshire Show started in 1893, and the Chester Show that joined it in 1904 provided the services once enjoyed by the Over Fair.