In terms of size The Hoppings is perhaps the biggest fair in Europe. The fair takes place on the Moor, a mile away from the city and covers an area of over 30 acres. The freehold on the land where the fair takes place is owned by the council but the freeman of the city also has rights and privileges resulting in the fact that the fair cannot take place without the agreement of both parties.
It was founded in 1882 as a Temperance Festival by the town fathers and was held as a festival in conjunction with race week. The idea of using a fair/festival to advise people to act morally and not drink is in contrast to the London council and the Fair Act of 1871, in which fairs were seen as places of ill-repute and injurious to the inhabitants of the town. However the festival was a great success and attracted over 160,000 people.
The nature of the agreement between the council and the freeman led to problems in 1913 when there was a dispute between the committee and the freeman of the moor over the letting of the site without the permission of the freeman. The freeman had advised the council that there should be no letting of the ground for the festival due to the damage left to the ground the previous year when heavy weather made it difficult for the showmen to leave the ground without damaging the site; however, John Murphy had given £50 to the council to repair the damage left by the equipment on the ground. The council disagreed - they were proud of the Hoppings festival in the North and they liked the rent, which was in the region of £1,000. The freeman went to court but the decision was given in favour of the showmen. However, the following year the freeman was granted an injunction and there was no temperance fair on the moor for that year and for the subsequent war years.
In 1919 the fair returned to the moor to celebrate a Victory Festival and despite one or two problems over the years the festival has survived, and this year it will be the 114th Hoppings Fair at Newcastle Town Moor.
After the reasonable weather of the last couple of years at the Hoppings the almost annual mud bath returned in fine style this year.
Here is a short video showing the sights and sounds of the Hoppings if you have not been before.
National Fairground Archive - The Hoppings
The Hoppings in the 70's by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen
In pictures: The Hoppings on Newcastle Town Moor
YouTube - The Newcastle Hoppings