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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

Updated: Tuesday, 3rd September, 2002
History of the event
Image of people dancing around the May Pole
The pole fair takes place every 20 years.
The Corby Pole fair dates back to the 13th Century and possibly beyond. It's due to take place on Monday and many traditions have been up held.


Corby Pole Fair website

Corby Borough Council

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The Charter

Events planned for 2002

Past Corby Pole Fairs

Old photographs from Pole Fairs
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The Corbei Pole Fair, The Corbei fifth Pole fair or the Corby Pole Fair - whatever its true name, this ancient and unique tradition comes around every 20 years and will take place on Monday, 6th May.

Why it is held every 20 years has never been discovered, nor why it is called a pole fair. But one theory suggests that when the Danes settled in the area, naming Corby village 'The BY of Kori', they brought many customs and punishments with them.

One such punishment, which lends itself to the theory, was 'riding the stang'.

This involved men who had committed minor offences being carried astride an ash pole or stang. Insults and missiles where then thrown at the punished as they were carried through the town or village.

Fairs are believed to have taken place in Corby as far back as 1226 when Henry III granted the right to hold two annual fairs and markets. The first documented event being held in 1862.

Traditions and proceedings

The rector of the village is traditionally carried around on a chair, as are the chairman of the council and the oldest person known to be born in the village.

The bells of the old parish church chime out to wake all the villagers for the celebrations.

The charter is read out at the three entrances to the village and then, after the final reading, a short service is conducted to give blessings for the success of the day and the day's activities are officially opened.

Image of a giant Queen Elizabeth I
David Maguire (far right) with a giant Queen Elizabeth I at the Corby Pole Fair of 1982

From this point on, anyone wanting to enter the village must do so on foot and pay a toll. This tradition holds today.

The comfort ends at this point for the three people carried in on chairs, as they are they find themselves the first occupants of the stocks.

Other traditional attractions, at least since records began, include the pageant, an ox-roast and climbing the greasy pole. New entertainments recently added include a street market, dancing displays and a tug-of-war.

Giant Queen Elizabeth

David Maguire, from Sheffield, remembers the Corby Pole Fair of 1982 (see the picture above). He said: From left to right the people in the picture are Andrew Taylor, Mary Macauley, James Downey and myself, far right with the dodgy sideburns and tights. I can't remember who was in the giant Queen Elizabeth.

"We were members of Flesh & Blood youth theatre company which was part of a YOP Scheme run by Corby Council from November 1981 to November 1982 and we were based at the Corby Civic theatre. We took part in several local events including the Pole Fair and the Highland Gathering.

"I remember it being a very warm day and we seemed to walk miles and miles getting hotter and hotter but it was great fun and for me it is a wonderful memory to treasure."

If you have memories or photographs of Corby Pole Fair, please e-mail them to us at:


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