Yesterday was the annual Ride and Stride. This is where people do a sponsored cycle, walk or ride round the many Oxfordshire Churches listed by the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust for the event. The sponsorship money is split between the Trust and the person’s church.
The Covid-19 restrictions meant the event looked a little different this year. Not as many churches had people at the door welcoming.
In Abingdon, three churches still had welcomers (St Helen’s, Abingdon Baptist, and St Michael’s).
The other churches left a form to be signed to show who had visited. In Abingdon, this included: Trinity, Peachcroft Christian Centre, All Saints, and St Nicolas
Here are two Ride and Striders signing in at St Nicholas on the Market Place.
I took part and cycled around all the Abingdon churches and churches in some nearby villages: Shippon, Sunningwell, Bayworth, Boars Hill, Kennington, Radley, Culham, Sutton, Milton, Steventon, Drayton.
Both the Drayton Churches were open, and allowed you to look round.
St Peter’s Church looked very smart from outside
and from inside. They had the usual sanitiser and sign in sheet.
Drayton Baptist Church also had a sign in sheet.
I cycle by this chapel going to work and have wondered what it looks like inside. So thank you to them for opening the door and letting me inside. It is a lovely building.
The Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust has exciting plans for the enhancement of the Abbey Buildings which have unfortunately had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Meanwhile they have to maintain the buildings and during the crisis they have not the usual income from lettings.
They would love to be able to do something a bit extra such as installing underfloor heating in the Checker or putting a dumb waiter up to the Long Gallery to make things easier and more comfortable for users then the Buildings are able to open again.
They get quite a few coins from the box on the gate, which is good, but ideally they need some larger donations via the donation page on their web site. (The rest of the web site will soon follow.)
The Friends of Abingdon recently divided into two charities:
* The Friends of Abingdon Abbey Buildings Trust concentrate on the Abbey Buildings
* The Friends of Abingdon Civic Society look at other town matters and are currently working hard to find a viable way for Old Abbey House to be kept for Abingdon people.
There was a four hour Town Council meeting last night where, after much debate, it was decided ‘with sorrow’ that the 2020 Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs would be cancelled.
There were representatives of Bob Wilson Funfairs Ltd at the meeting. Council staff took advice from the Showmen’s Guild, the police and other authorities. It was decided that the anticipated size of the crowd and the risk that poses to public health meant they must follow the requirements of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and cancel the fairs.
Some people thought the fairs had already been cancelled, and say this decision is no surprise. Most large inland fairs have been already been cancelled – including the St Giles’ Fair in Oxford, and Nottingham Goose Fair.
Only smaller fairs like the Steventon on the Green fair (3 miles from Abingdon), carry on. That was just last week.
The Abingdon Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs had their origins in another pandemic – the Black Death of 1348/9 which led to a labour shortage. The authorities of 1350 (King, Barons, Abbotts and Sheriffs) were faced with the problem of a labour shortages and wage inflation and decided to regulate wages through annual hiring fairs. That carried on until the nineteenth century.
After the industrial revolution such wage-setting / hiring fairs evolved into the fun fairs that we know.
I do not know the last time the Abingdon Michaelmas Fair did not go ahead. During World War II a single stall was set up on Abingdon Market Place to ensure the fair could continue after the war should any legal challenge arise. There have always been voices wanting the annual fair moved out of town.
The Mayor of Abingdon, Cllr Charlie Birks, said: ‘… All parties worked hard to see if the Fairs could proceed but we have come to the reluctant conclusion that we had to cancel this year. We hope the Fairs return to their rightful place in 2021.’