diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 19, 2024

Every year on May 15th the people of Cheam hold a charter fair.
They have to hold it on the right day or permission lapses.
It dates back to a market charter granted by Henry III in 1259.

Also much of the above may not be true.



Firstly there is no evidence that Henry III granted a charter to Cheam in 1259 or in any other year. Tradition says he did but no historical records exist to confirm this, so it's all hand-me-down hearsay. There is thus no legal obligation to hold the fair on the right day but they still do.

Secondly there's no evidence that the fair has been held every year. Tradition says it has, indeed local figures have often gone out of their way to hold some kind of celebration even when no large event took place. During one particularly lacklustre 19th century year a resident called Granny Sloper met the terms by sticking a table of produce outside her house, during WW2 villagers set up an ice cream stall with a dartboard next to it and during the pandemic they got some children to play hopscotch in the street. But nobody knows for sure if the fair has ever failed to take place, and over 7½ centuries that possibility seems rather likely.

Thirdly the fair is no longer held on the correct day. In 2011 councillors suggested a weekend would be better for footfall reasons and since then the main fair's been transferred to the subsequent Saturday. But tradition holds strong so something always takes place on May 15th - this year it was a game of badminton outside the Red Lion in which a small group of children took on the fair's sponsor, a local mortgage broker.


I went along yesterday.



I missed the procession. This takes place at the ridiculously early hour of 9am and I was still on the wrong side of London at the time. What happens is that pupils from St Dunstan's school dress in Tudor outfits and are led through the streets by the Mayor of Sutton in his red robes. I didn't feel like I'd particularly missed out by skipping this.

Cheam Charter Fair takes place in Park Road, a historic dogleg behind The Broadway. It pretty much fills the street too, with 80-odd stalls strung out along its length and a very decent crowd of locals milling through. What I most liked was how traditional and rooted in the community it was, from the Rotary Club's Splat The Rat sideshow to the Trefoil Guild's tombola. I can't claim that the prizes in the shoe shop's lucky dip were amazing, nor that anyone genuinely needs a £1.50 'Paint your own Shortbread Biscuit' kit, but the tat level was a lot lower than your average contemporary streetfair.

And sure the usual array of home-baking entrepreneurs had turned up attempting to sell gift-wrapped slabs of Rocky Road, but they weren't winning out because the best cakes were selling out fastest from the clingfilmed trays on the Mothers Union table. And OK multiple Etsy-style craft ladies had turned up attempting to flog things they'd been sewing all winter, but the crowd was actually larger round the Hook-A-Boat paddling pool where a 50p dip could win you a Swizzels fruit lolly. And admittedly a local heating company had dressed up a Worcester boiler in a cape and was claiming it as a mascot, but the good people of Cheam were sensibly giving their table of sponsored gonks a wide berth. The two constables sent to police the event looked like they were having the best day.

Best of all, the Lumley Chapel was open.



St Dunstan's church was founded just over 1000 years ago, and mostly demolished in the 1870s when burgeoning Cheam needed a less dilapidated place of worship. But the Duke of Bedford refused permission to demolish his private chapel so they kept the end section and filled it with all the old memorials and plaques from the remainder of the church. The Lumley Chapel now stands alone in the churchyard beside its Gothic replacement and since 2002 has been entrusted to the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. For Charter Fair day it was unlocked and the local populace came for a look inside, regularly entertained by historian Andrew Skelton giving a quick explanatory tour.



The major monuments are those of Tudor courtier John Lumley and his two wives, he the lucky sod who inherited Henry VIII's nearby palace of Nonsuch through marriage. The most ornate memorial is that of his first wife Jane, the front of which depicts their three children in alabaster standing in front of a recognisably palatial backdrop. The Lumley vault is a steep shallow space just down there, said John, pointing to the ringed flagstone one of us was standing on. Most of the other commemorative clutter is from later well-to-do families, and John went on to point out how many of them had been referenced in a local street name. The only part of the chapel that's properly pre-Norman are the windowy remnants in the flinty exterior, since-filled in, but that's enough to make this the oldest building in the entire borough of Sutton.

If you want to look inside the Lumley Chapel you don't have to wait until Charter Fair day, the key is kept at Cheam Library nextdoor. Unfortunately Sutton council are increasingly skint so the majority of its libraries have just been switched to a Self-Access model which means you can no longer walk in off the street without a library card (or app) and PIN. Staff are now only provided on Wednesdays, Thursdays and alternate Saturdays, and without someone behind the desk you'll never get the key because this is the miserable cheapskate future austerity has delivered.

In better news a key is also available at the next building I visited, although that's recently had its Saturday opening hours cut thanks to the same cultural budget squeeze imposed last month, damn you Eric Pickles.


I finished off my visit in Whitehall.



That's Whitehall the 520-year-old timber-framed house, one of the cluster of wooden Tudor buildings in Cheam along The Broadway. You can tell it's special just by looking at it, and if it's open you can also see how a recent splash of lottery money has improved the offering within. First up is a little gift shop offering Cheamy publications and a foursome of Cheamy badges, then you're free to head off and explore across two storeys and a spacious attic. A few relics from Nonsuch survive downstairs, displayed alongside a rather splendid model of the very splendid palace. A lot of rooms however display little but information panels, for example a Cheam Discovery Trail you could follow or a look at the former agricultural bounty hereabouts - specifically lavender, peppermint and watercress.

Upstairs the interior decoration gets a bit more thematic and focuses on former residents, which I think is why the largest attic room is full of maritime ephemera and makes seashore noises. I would have like to read more about the actual building itself, for example the marvellously steep and twisty attic staircase, but maybe I missed that part. When you're done there's also a decent sized garden which contains a 20 foot deep well, suitably railinged off, and perhaps a cafe too if council accountants have deemed it worthy of keeping open. And all this is free to visit (it was £1.60 last time I came in 2009) but perhaps that's a condition of the lottery funding. Hurrah anyway.



Cheam might look very 1930s, but at its heart are Saxon and Tudor treasures and a medieval Charter Fair, making it unlike almost anywhere else in London.

If charter fairs are your thing a reminder that Pinner's is coming up in 10 days time, although that's more high street fairground and a mere 14th century youngster.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24  Jun24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Jun24  May24
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv