FRESH light has been shed on the origins of Appleby Horse Fair by historian Andrew Connell.

The former mayor of Appleby returned to the archives to bring out an updated version of his detailed study of the age-old event.

Broadcaster Helen Skelton has written a foreword to "There'll Always Be Appleby", having grown up with the fair and been taught history at Appleby Grammar School by Mr Connell.

"The colour and controversy of Appleby Horse Fair have always been part of my life," wrote Helen, who grew up in Kirkby Thore.

"From my bedroom window in our farmhouse on the A66 I would see what seemed countless Gypsy caravans and horses making their annual journey to and fro. For a few days every year life was very different, even more so after I was 11; Appleby Grammar School is right in the middle of the sights, sounds, even the smells of the fair."

She added that she "couldn't imagine anyone better equipped to write this important book" than her "brilliant history teacher" and past form tutor.

Oxford history scholar Mr Connell told the Gazette he was surprised by the absence of scholarly research on Appleby Horse Fair before embarking on his book.

In his 136-page volume, revised from the first, out-of-print edition of 2015, he has incorporated new archival research on the origins, evolving character and legal status of the famous gathering - setting out to separate myth from historical fact, using documents such as magistrates' court records.

The historian and musical entertainer has built up a detailed picture of how the fair began in 1775. He explains how the legend of a "lost" royal charter granted by King James II in 1685 only really came into being in 1945, when two Appleby councillors were seeking a way of stopping the fair.

"It was totally fiction," said Mr Connell. "That story has floated around ever since."

He has also explored more recent controversy. In 2018 Cumbria's police and crime commissioner Peter McCall made the headlines after telling residents at a meeting he would ban the fair if he "had a magic wand". Mr McCall went on to say he accepted there was no prospect of scrapping the event.

Author Mr Connell told the Gazette there was no mechanism for stopping Appleby Horse Fair because it never had a charter and is not "an enclosed event".

"Nobody is charged to go to it," he said. "People pay privately to camp. There's no admission, it's not like Glastonbury Festival. There's no programme. It just consists of a lot of people turning up, many of them with horses, but most not; some there to trade horses, others not."

Mr Connell said the fair had "implications for law and order", as did people drinking alcohol on Carlisle's Botchergate on Saturday nights, or vast numbers of tourists heading to the Lake District, but people could not be banned from simply going where they wanted to go.

The former mayor of Appleby has "never missed a fair" during his 47 years in the town, and his book concludes on an upbeat note - with his personal opinion that "over time the fair emerges in credit, the sum of happiness and satisfaction outweighing the misery and discontent".

The author has approached Waterstones book shop in Kendal about stocking his book. In the meantime, There'll Always Be Appleby can be ordered from Amazon; by email at; or by phone on 017683-51847 or 07817-754612.