Tag Archives: Harry Gray

1910 Shooting over fair pitches

Music Hall and Theatre Review – Thursday 1st September 1910

Guns at Mitcham.

At Croydon Police Court on Friday Henry Harris was committed for trial at the next Guildford Assizes, having been charged with the attempted murder of Frederick Gray, aged fifty, of Wandsworth-road, and Henry Gray, aged twenty-six, of Kensal-rise, by shooting them with a revolver at Mitcham-green on August 12. The injured men attended the court. Mr. A. A. Strong said it was customary for the showmen to take up their positions on the Thursday before the fair, and the members of the Showmen’s Guild had their places allotted by the Guild, so that everything should be done in order. This year, on reaching Mitcham the showmen found that, owing to the notoriety the fair had gained through the action of the local conservators, the ground was occupied by gipsies. On the Wednesday before the fair the Grays found the site they usually occupied was in Harris’s possession. The prisoner, said counsel, was not a showman. Showmen did not carry revolvers, and were a most orderly and law-abiding folk.

Harris carried on small coal business at Battersea. Occasionally he had gone with shows, and the Grays had helped him. The elder Gray, knowing he had no legal claim to the site, offered Harris £5. On the first day of the fair they had not yet come to an agreement. Frederick Gray was under the impression on Thursday night that Harris had agreed to accept £6 and a use of a portion of the ground. Accordingly instructions were given for the roundabouts to be erected on Friday, but he found Harris was still in possession. About mid-day prisoner asked witness what he was going to do, and witness said, ” I’ve finished,” and Harris then said, ” I haven’t finished with you.” Between 1.30 and 2 o’clock as witness and his son were walking round the fair ground, Harris ran in front of them, and without a word pointed a revolver at them from a distance of eight or nine paces, and fired several shots.

After being treated by a local doctor witness and his son were taken to Guy’s Hospital, remaining until Wednesday last. A bullet was extracted from his chest, and a doctor told him that if it had been half an inch further to the left, the wound would have been fatal.

Harry Gray, the son, denied that he struck prisoner, or that his father threatened him.

The incident was reported in the Croydon’s Weekly Standard – Saturday 20th August 1910

TWO SHOT AT A FAIR

A shooting affray marked the opening of Mitcham Fair on Friday. Two showmen, Frederick Gray and Harry Gray, his son, were shot and Henry Harris, the proprietor of a “Hoop-la” booth was arrested. The incident occurred about two o’clock in the afternoon, when the fair was crowded with people. It is said that the Grays and Harris quarrelled over a pitch. A heated dispute ensued, during which, it is alleged, Harris pulled out a revolver – and fired at the two Grays. The crowd promptly scattered in all directions, and took shelter behind the nearest caravans. Harris, it is said, ran after the Grays with a revolver in his hand, but a young woman named Maria Herrick, in the employment of the elder Gray, ran up to him, and pluckily wrenched the revolver from him. Immediately after the police came up and arrested Harris. Altogether, four shots were fired. In view of the crowded state of the ground, it is remarkable that no more people were hit. Frederick Gray was wounded in the back, and his son Harry in the chest. Both are doing well.

As regards the fair itself, the action of the Mitcham Common Conservators during recent years in attempting to stop it has apparently only resulted in making it more popular. The number of shows is greater this year than ever before. The Conservators took out against twenty-two showmen for taking up places forty-eight hours before the time allowed, which was Thursday noon.

1955 : Harry Gray’s fair leaves winter HQ at Mitcham

From the Mitcham & Tooting Advertiser, 7th April, 1955

THE SHOWMEN ARE ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Harry Gray’s fair leaves winter H.Q. at Mitcham

MITCHAM show-king, 74 year old Harry Gray, whose fair began its annual tour on Monday, after months of patient preparation, is hoping for a hot, dry summer. Last year’s tour was badly affected by wet weather.

For the last 50 years the fair has spent the winter months in quarters near Mitcham Baths.

Every September, after a long summer programme, the mobile playground returns to its Mitcham home for five months’ rest. Throughout winter, the showmen overhaul their expensive equipment and repaint everything. In addition they talk over future plans and examine suggestions for additions to the fair.

TOUGH BOSS

Harry Gray is a tough and efficient boss, despite his age. A showman all his life — he was born while his parents were on a tour — he comes from a family which for generations has belonged to the amusement world.

Since taking over the present fair, Mr. Gray has experienced many difficulties. One of these is the competition from television and the cinema. Expenses are heavy and every year costs increase.

Nevertheless, this year’s tour is ambitious and includes visits to Hampstead Heath and Newbury races. Other places included are Clapham Common, Tooting Bec Common, Victoria Park and the famous Mitcham Fair in August.

On Monday the fair left Mitcham for its first port of call—Hampstead Heath. Trucks and trailers swung out on to the London Road early in the morning. The trucks, many of them of over 15 tons in weight, drove in convoy with a noise like muffled thunder.

To carry the many tons of equipment the lorries have to be kept in perfect running order and must be driven with care and skill. The Gray fair has the proud record of never having been involved in any road accident.

When the convoy reached Hampstead Heath, about 50 men swarmed over the lorries and within a few hours the Gray Fair was erected and ready to receive its first customers.

A workman overhauls one of the fair’s many powerful lorries.

The winter home of the Harry Gray fair. It has been used by showmen for over fifty years.