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Pinner: Fairs, Pubs and Wheelbarrows

As one of the ten hamlets of the medieval Harrow Manor, Pinner is one of the oldest areas in the borough, and has an extensive history of local traditions to match – one of these the long-running (and upcoming) St. George’s Day ‘Ye Olde Village Wheelbarrow Race.’

For those unfamiliar, the event – held every year since 1963, and run by the Pinner Rotary Club – entails two teams competing on the streets of Pinner, drinking beer as they race from pub to pub. The much-loved centrepiece of the wider St. George’s Day celebrations (which last year saw Wheelbarrow Dragon Jousting also included), the wheelbarrow race attracts hundreds from across the borough for an afternoon of fun and national celebration. It’s well worth a visit if you’re free – this year it being on Sunday 24th April.

However, the celebrations, with its underlying focus on beer and pubs, speaks to a wider, older tradition of the local village. It would seem, according to some historical records, that Pinner’s drinking tradition extends back some hundred years – if not more – with the village long having had an expansive variety of local pubs.

Rather amusingly, in the nineteenth century the number of pubs was so high that the magistrates were asked to reduce their number, with it also having been proposed that there should be no relief given to people who refused to attend service twice on Sundays.

The people of Pinner, then, have long been a celebratory, fun-loving people – a tradition arguably continued to this day with the St. George’s Day celebrations and its famous wheelbarrow race.

Of course, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The fact is, Pinner has long-been a close-knit community – something which can be seen no clearer than in the famous Pinner Fair. Granted by King Edward III via a Royal Charter in 1336, Pinner is one of the few villages to still hold an annual fair – and the fact that this right to hold a fair is revoked if there is ever a year where the fair is not run, is but a further testament to the commitment by the people of Pinner to local traditions, from the fourteenth century into the twenty-first.

The fair will be taking place again this year on June 1st – another date to mark on the calendar – with the main streets becoming the temporary home for a number of fairground rides.

With such an extensive history of local tradition – perhaps the most in all of Harrow – it’s easy to see why the village, and its annual events, attracts so many people every year. Indeed, over the centuries this has included those like the illegitimate daughter of Horatio Nelson – whose own daughter was killed outside a Pinner pub when she was struck by a horse, and who is buried alongside her mother in the Pinner parish cemetery – as well as Isabella Beeton, who’s Hatch End Soup Kitchen we looked at a few weeks back.

Yet in the present, Pinner and its lineage of local traditions – and the fact that this is a continuing lineage – is arguably made even more important. In a day and age where it’s so easy to get stuck behind a screen, continuing local celebrations like the Ye Olde Wheelbarrow Race the Pinner Fair are made important exceptions.

So this weekend, why not pay a visit to Pinner village and its long-running annual celebration to get a sense for yourself the rich and extensive history the village has to offer.


Written by Harry Turner.

Image Credit: SilverTiger – ‘Lunchless in Harrow’