Local Stories

Stories and Memories of Kington and the Marches.

Huntington Horse Fair

In 1256 Henry III granted to Humphrey de Bohun the right to hold a weekly market on Friday in the manor of Huntington and a three day annual Horse Fair in mid July, so arranged to correspond with the anniversary of the translation of Thomas à Becket on July 18.

In the mid-1960s, Miss May Jones of The Railway Tavern, Kington, recorded the following account of this important horse fair:

The last leg of the four mile journey from Kington. The horses and ponies were of all descriptions and generally numbered between 500 to 600. There was no auctioneer, all the business being done by hand.

The buyers travelled overnight and arrived in Kington Station on the 6 am mail train. They then travelled the four miles to Huntington by horse brake. The buyers had one or two extra men with them. These were known as ‘touts’ and it was their job to sound out a man as to how much he wanted for his horse. After doing this they would find all kinds of faults with it and then offer the vendor a very low price, so as to devalue it ready for the real buyer to come along and probably get the horse at a very much lower price than he could have done if the tout had not been at work. The most notable of these touts was a man named Ted Hathaway who came from Gloucester. He died in 1964 at the age of 96.

Important buyers included Fred Grindle of Bristol who bought horses for the railways; Bob Fossle of Bristol who bought for the breweries; Harvey of Gloucester who bought for the city carriers (vanners); Dick Harrison of Manchester who bought for the tramways and barges; Fred Gay of Bristol bought cobs; Jo Bowdler of Wolverhampton bought ponies for milk floats and costermongers; Jim Burrows of Shrewsbury bought ponies for the mines (pitters); Henry Chatham of Reading bought army remounts and ponies; Ted and John Hart of London bought heavy draught horses and vanners.

Some wore distinctive headgear. Fred Grindle and Bob Fossle wore box hats. The local men who worked partly on their own account and partly as agents for the main dealers mentioned above were Frank Billingham, Bill Bayliss, Bill Higgins, Jack Eggerton and Bill Houldy. The lord of the manor held the rights of the fair, but as he was not able to collect the tolls himself he employed two local toughs to do it for him.

When the day’s business had finished the horses and ponies were driven loose in their various droves to Kington Station for Loading. Although most of these horses and ponies had been purchased in the early part of the day, no money was passed until they arrived at Kington Station. After loading, settlement was usually made at the little inn near the railway – The Railway Tavern. The touts were also paid at the inn after they had completed their job, which included the loading at the station. The reasons for not completing the deal at the time of the purchase was to lessen the risk of being robbed on the road and so that buyers could get their purchases driven to the railway sidings without having to pay drovers

At one time it is reported that the Horse Fair was so extensive that horses lined the roadside from Huntington to Mahollam. The event also brought income to Kington as witnessed in the following entry in Thomas Carleton Skarratt’s diary from July 17, 1877. ‘A large number of Dealers came to Town for the purpose of attending Huntington Fair on the following day. Report says more than could get beds.’

An 1859 edition of the Hereford Journal carried this report on the Huntington Horse Fair:

No mayor or corporation to advertise with authority its fair days, no hotel, no street, no shops, still it is well known and well attended. The farmhouses are hotels for the day, and the celebrated baked geese and new beer of old Farmer Barnett (James Barnett senior, Lower House) are as much relished as if served in a leading hotel. But this reminds us that poor old Barnett, long the hero of these fairs, has been called to his last account, leaving his sons, (Thomas of Upper House and James junior of Llanarrow) behind him to do as he was wont to do.The last Huntington Horse Fair was held in 1953. Its end came partly because of the pony sales at Hay-on-Wye sponsored by the Welsh Mountain Pony and Cob Society.

The above is taken from Huntington Church website www.huntingtonchurch.co.uk with grateful thanks.



1939, war has been declared and I was nearly 5 years old. My family lived in Dorking just south of London. Expecting the city to be attacked at any time, we received two evacuees from the capital- a brother and sister for me-and my father enlisted in the RAF. But this was the ‘Phoney war’ and nothing happened, life going on as before. It was well into 1940when the air raids began and by the summer the Battle of Britain was at its height. I would watch the dogfights, putting my aircraft recognition into practice. Then followed the massed nightly bombing raids on London and other cities which had us cowering in our Anderson shelter; sleep was intermittent at best. I remember being especially terrified by the noise of the German bomber’s engines; they were all twin engine aircraft and the engines were not synchronised resulting in a sort of threatening, pulsating throb-mmm-mmm-mmm-getting gradually nearer.

Around this time our evacuees returned home and my father came home on leave from the RAF. He felt that my mother and I could do with a break from the bombardment so we set off in a borrowed car into the country to find somewhere to stay for the weekend. I don’t know the details but we travelling somewhere near Kington when a lady thumbed a lift. We explained what we doing and she said ‘If you’ll take me home you can stay with me. This was Mrs Muriel Davies of Knill Farm and this is where my mother and I were lucky to stay for the best part of 2 years! Beautiful countryside, a fabulous exciting house (with the added interest of rats living noisily in the walls) Nd family members to play with (Roger Davies and I became good mates) and all the freedom and fun a farm could offer. They were truly some of the best days of my life.

I started at Titley School while at Knill. The Head was Mrs Daisy Pye and the class teacher Miss Partridge. We were picked up by a bus at the ‘turn’ for the journey. After one of the early days my mother asked how school had been. I said we had to stop on the way because there was ‘a little twirly’ in the road. I had asked one of the big boys why we had stopped and he had answered with that lovely Welsh lilt, ‘It’s a little too early’. I was imagining a sort of whirlpool in the tarmac.

I was bullied a bit because of my Surrey accent, nothing worse than having my head pushed through the railings and ironically, once back at Dorking, I was bullied again for sounding Welsh! Life was very different at Knill 1940 from Dorking. I don’t remember ration books being so prominent; there was wonderful creamy milk, freshly churned butter, farm eggs and more and we didn’t have to take gas masks to school.

My father came on occasional leave, the, in August 1941 my brother John was born. Maggie the live-in help is reputed to have said on seeing the baby; ‘Never mind Mrs Hope, even the ugliest baby can turn into a nice adult’. At this point my paternal grandmother decided to join us, ostensibly to help but instead felt called to start a Sunday school. I do not recall this being an astounding success! She was a staunch total abstainer and I well remember Mr Davies with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, teasing her with his cider. She also found life in close proximity to animals difficult – she ‘d fail to arrive home for hours because of a cow in the road – and was once horrified when offered a lift by Eddie Davies to find there was a sheep on the back seat!

In the middle of 1942 we returned to Dorking. I think there had been problems with the occupation of our house. The air raids were less intensive but the V1 and V2 strikes were yet to come. Leaving Knill was the worst thing that had ever happened to me and I dreamed of going back one day. How fortunate I am to have spent some of my formative years in such a wonderful place. My lifelong love of the hills comes I am certain from Knill Garraway which at that time had not been planted with trees and Herrock hill.



Wordsworth in our Area

by Anne Goodwin, Hindwell.

The lives of William Wordsworth and his close family were inextricably linked to the Lake District but they also had close ties with Herefordshire and Radnorshire. William having visited this area on eleven occasions.

William married Mary Hutchinson whose brother Tom took a fifteen year lease in 1809 on Hindwell farm in the Radnor Valley; four miles north west of Kington. The Georgian farm house overlooks a beautiful 4 acre lake. William found ‘the pool quite charming and far beyond my (his) expectations@ and was fond of fishing the pool for trout. Dorothy Wordsworth also wrote ‘ You could hardly believe it possible for anything but a lake to be so beautiful as the pool before this house’. They also found the house cold and were afraid that socially Tom Hutchinson would be ‘buried alive’ in this rural backwater!

However, Tom’s family stayed at Hindwell until 1824 when they moved to Brinsop Court near Credenhill thus continuing this long association with the border counties.

Amongst the voluminous correspondence of the Wordsworth family papers are the love letters written to or from William and Mary in 1810 and 1824; amongst the most tender and romantic letters in English Literature.

Further Reading: David Bentley-Taylor; Wordsworth in the Wye Valley; Logaston Press (2001)

Beth Darlington (ed) The Love Letters of William and Mary Wordsworth; Chatto and Windus (1982)