Tradition: Axe hangs over ancient village fair

Villagers are going to the polls to decide whether a historic 650-year-old fair should be scrapped - because it causes an annual crime- wave.

The 300 residents of the picturesque Priddy, in the Mendips, are fed up with crowds of up to 10,000 people descending on the village every summer. They are holding a referendum to decide whether to abandon the fair which has been held on the village green since the Black Death in the 14th century. Villagers say the event, which for centuries centred on a sheep market, has spiralled out of control, attracting people from all over the country and leading to a spate of thefts, drunkenness and violence every time the fair is held. Village postmaster Jim Finlayson, who has lived at Priddy for 40 years, said: "Last year somebody stole all the gas cylinders from the village hall and left us with a bill for pounds 500." Villagers have until 31 October to complete their poll forms.