Summer came back on Saturday and took us to the fair…



…to the Bishop’s Castle Michaelmas Fair, to be precise. And not only did summer come back to us after a week of dreary coldness, it was warm, and bright and stayed ALL day.

The fair was to be found in every quarter of the town, from St John the Baptist Church at the bottom of the hill to the Three Tuns Inn at the top of the hill, and with here-and-there enclaves in between.


This shot of the High Street looking towards the church was taken from the window from the Town Hall. This handsome civic building (coming up next) has recently been refurbished and doubles up as the town’s market. This year it is celebrating its 250th  birthday…


Wending on upwards past the Town Hall, and bearing to the right, you come to the Three Tuns Inn. It is one of Shropshire’s real ale treasures. They’ve been brewing beer there since 1642, so they must be doing something right. It’s apparently the oldest licensed brewery in Britain, but…


…it is not the only  micro-brewery in this small town. For those who don’t care to climb hills for a pint, you can sample the Six Bells’ Cloud Nine, a piece of real ale heaven, down on the corner of Church Street.


A nice set of wheels, chaps?

Which brings me to another big excitement of the day – the Michaelmas Fair Parade. Not only did we have beer, bubbles, folk songs, indie rock, ballads and wall to wall bonhomie, there were also classic cars, tractors, and steam powered vehicles. But before all that we had…

Oh ye, oh ye. Make way for the Bishop’s Castle Elephant…



He’s called Clive, and was created by local maker, Bamber Hawes, with help from the town’s Community College students. Bishop’s Castle artist, Esther Thorpe designed Clive’s ‘skin’, and the primary school children did the printing. And if you want to know why Bishop’s Castle has an elephant on parade, I’ll explain later.

For now, watch your toes, here comes a huge steam roller…


…and Peterkin the Fool on his stilts. He nearly trod on me…



…and then there were tractors (I remember when farmers had these)…


…and cool types in classic cars…


Then there were owls to hold, alpacas with socks to sample, more bubbles from the world’s tallest bubbleologist. We were so excited we had to resort to the Church Barn for soothing tea and brownies. After all, no good English ‘do’ is complete without afternoon tea…


And now as promised, a bit of a yarn about Clive the Elephant. It’s a tale of dirty dogs and political shenanigans of 250 years ago. These were the days when Bishop’s Castle was a notorious Rotten Borough. There were two Members of Parliament, and only 150 people with the right to vote. How people cast their vote was a matter of public record, and this meant voters could be intimidated into supporting particular candidates.

Enter Shropshire-born Robert Clive, aka First Baron Clive aka Clive of India.  He was on a mission to build political power, and had the money to buy it. He had used his position in the (also notorious) British East India Company not only to found the British Empire in India, but also to return from the Sub-Continent with shiploads of loot. He then set about buying votes for the  men he wished to have as MPs. As part of his scheme of self-aggrandizement he added an elephant to his coat arms. It symbolized India, and his personal power. Today, a stone carved version may still be seen in Bishop’s Castle’s old market place…


The reason Clive wanted power was so he could set about reforming the East India Company, and get rid of corruption in the administration. This did not come to much. Pots and kettles come to mind here. He died at the age of 49. All sorts of allegations were made as to cause of death – that he stabbed himself, cut his throat with a penknife, died of an opium overdose. It seems he suffered from gallstones, and was using the drug to deaden the pain. A more recent interpretation of events concludes he died of a heart attack due to the over-use of opium.

However you look at it, this is not a good elephant story. Far more heartening is the fact that during World War 2, a circus elephant was looked after in the town, and  lived quietly in the stable of the Castle Hotel.

Finally a few more scenes of fun and jollification. I should also say that if I didn’t live in Much Wenlock, Bishop’s Castle would be the place I would most like to live – no longer a rotten borough, but a place bursting with community good spirits…

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Even though it was a Saturday, I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk

Please visit her blog. There is no better place to be inspired to get out and about with your camera.

35 thoughts on “Summer came back on Saturday and took us to the fair…

  1. Bless you, Tish, for restoring the smile to my face! I’m in a post excitement slump (not surprising really, is it? Home at 2am this morning and faced with heaps of the mundane 🙂 ) I was smiling from the second I saw that net for catching bubbles. Just the very thing I could use! 🙂 And the guy in the dashing car (with a tea cosy on his head???) Not to mention the bold strides of the papier mache elephant. And then you wind up so nicely! Thank you very much for the kind words. Can we have Summer back again tomorrow?

  2. Oh boo! I missed this. Though actually I don’t like crowds and it does look a bit busy. And yes, Saturday was a lovely day – which is how I ended up at Wightwick Manor! We are supposed to have more sunny days at the end of the week too 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your lovely photos and stroll around BC. I agree, it is a cracking little town surrounded by the most gorgeous landscape.

    1. Yes, BC’s setting is utterly wonderful. I was just reading earlier, too., about the ancient trackway, Kerry Ridgeway what comes from Kerry into the town, passing on route Bronze Age tumuli and an Iron Age hill fort. Borderlands are always rather magical.

  3. OK, if e’er I needed more reinforcement to visit that charming town well, that does it. Reminds me a lot of what I’ve seen down here in this village in Germany, too. Complete with the fachwerk on the homes, the flags, the dancing…very nice slideshow, here. And glad you had good weather. We commented too how lucky we were to have good parade weather the last couple days of our festival in Besigheim, as it flipped to cold and dark and rain just like that, the way it does this time of year. But we have the heater going and the candles and so forth, and it’s time. Soup time!

  4. Great photos, especially the shot down hill. But it’s your words that captivate me, and the familiar tone of your take on Clive. Can’t let J see this: he has a serious tractor obsession, although it might be safe. He’s just switched allegiance to blue ones. Those tractors obviously haven’t come straight from the paddock – unless English paddocks don’t do dirt!

    1. I might even have some blue tractor shots. Our farmers mostly don’t use these dear old things any more (ie the sort of tractors I was used to scrambling over as a child in Cheshire). Instead we have huge great horrors with cabs roaring around the place – wheels too wide for a carriageway. Anyone would think England had priaries. As to Clive, I think I am miffed about the man because I was in Clive House at primary school, and I had the impression he was some kind of local hero. Then I find he is a complete rotter. Historian William Dalrymple calls him ‘an unstable sociopath’.

      1. These are the sorts of tractors we see in our neck of the woods – we’re backward, and poor! So many “heroes” of the past turn out to have been total, or at least partial, ratbags. Churchill for one.

  5. It looks like a really good fair. I love the photos – such candid shots of people enjoying themselves. The photo of the bubbles is intriguing.

  6. From the first photo I had a huge grin on my face Tish. What a difference the sun makes to an outing like this and how relieved the organisers must’ve been. What an interesting story about the elephant and Clive, and we think our politics are rigged!!! They did an amazing life like job of that, almost, life sized elephant. That tractor (Massey Ferguson I think) brings back memories of my farming days from the 1950’s to the 70’s both in UK and NZ. Back then they were all grey. Looks like, maybe, an Indian summer on its way for you poor sun deprived people…

    1. The weather forecast the morning indeed says we’re in for some autumnal summer. I remember the grey tractors too. There were some in the parade, but the didn’t look as jolly as the not-so-old red ones.

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