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Day, Daniel (DNB00)


DAY, DANIEL (1683–1767), founder of Fairlop Fair, was born in 1683 in the parish of St. Mary Overy, Southwark, where his father was a brewer. For many years Day was engaged in the trade of an engine, pump, and block maker in the parish of St. John, Wapping. Possessing a small estate near Fairlop Oak in Hainault Forest, he used to repair thither on the first Friday in every July in order to receive his rents. On these occasions it was his custom to invite some of his neighbours to accompany him, whom he entertained under the shade of the oak with a feast of beans and bacon. In the course of years the number of visitors to the oak on this particular day gradually increased, so that in 1725 the place began to exhibit all the appearances of a regular fair. Though it was no longer a private entertainment, Day continued annually to distribute a large quantity of beans and bacon underneath the shade of his favourite tree. For some years before his death the pump and block makers of Wapping yearly attended the fair in a boat covered with an awning and mounted on a carriage drawn by six horses. This procession is still continued, but the fair is no longer held, the site having been allotted to the crown under the act for disafforesting the forest of Hainault (14 & 15 Vict. c. 43), which was passed in 1851. The oak, which measured 36 feet in girth at three feet from the ground, and whose boughs overspread an area of some 300 feet in circumference, was greatly injured by an accidental fire in June 1805. A picture of it as it appeared after this catastrophe will be found in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1806, opposite p. 617. The remaining portion of the tree was blown down by a gale in February 1820, and some of the wood was utilised in making the pulpit and reading-desk of St. Pancras Church, which was then in course of erection. A few years before Day's death the oak lost a large limb, out of which he had a coffin made for himself. He also left directions that his body should be conveyed to the grave by water, in consequence of the number of accidents he had met with while travelling on land, and that it should be accompanied by six pump and block makers. Day died on 19 Oct. 1767 in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and was buried in his oak coffin in the churchyard of Barking, Essex. His tombstone was repaired in 1829 at the expense of the Company of Blockmakers.

[The History, Origin, and Rise of Fairlop Fair, &c. (1813); Wilson's Wonderful Characters (1821), ii. 370–5; Granger's Wonderful Museum (1808), vi. 3041–53; The Mirror, ii. 81–2, 131; Chambers's Book of Days (1864), ii. 21–2; Thorne's Handbook to the Environs of London (1876), pt. i. pp. 24–5; Gent. Mag. xxxvii. 525, vol. lxxv. pt. i. p. 574, vol. lxxvi. pt. ii. p. 617; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. v. 113–14, 471–3, 621, 4th ser. v. 468.]

G. F. R. B.