King Edward I, in 1285 granted a market at Denbury, on Wednesdays, and a yearly fair for three days (the eve, day and morrow) of the festival of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron Saint of Denbury Church, 8th September, to the Abbot and Convent of Tavistock.
In a report on "Devonshire Folk-Lore" (Transactions of Devonshire Association, Vol. VIII), Mr Paul O. Karkeek makes mention of old Denbury Fair. It was fully attended, he says, by all classes among the inhabitants of a wide district, being looked forward to as an outing and pleasure-making occasion. This Fair is also referred to in "The Western Antiquary" (October, 1881), where it is said that of all the old pleasure fairs of South Devon, that held at Denbury "seems to have exercised the most influence in the neighbourhood." The contributor (from Ashburton) says everyone attended Denbury Fair; "people now living can remember seeing the carriages of our county families there."
In "The Western Antiquary" (April 1885) we are also told that there was a procession and "chairing" of "Old Father and Mother Denbury." But the Fair was not entirely confined to festivity; a good deal of business was done, cheese, in particular, was being sold in large quantities and cattle were driven to Fair.
This famous old Devonshire fair came abruptly to an end by the prevalence of Rinderpest, a virulent disease of cattle similar to foot and mouth disease in 1866, after continuing 600 years short of 19 years.
There is still a reminder of the Fair at Denbury in the name of several fields and, more recently, the Devon County Council farm built next to one of them, Fairfield Farm.
With the kind permission of its owner, metal detectorists have recently investigated one of these fields. The artefacts found confirm that a wide spectrum of people did indeed attend the Fair.Detection Finds - Page 1