Nottingham Goose Fair – History
A Royal Charter granted by Edward the 1st in 1284, granted the Burgesses of Nottingham to hold a fair on the eve of the feast of St.Edmund and the 12 days following. However the main fair for the people of Nottingham was the fair held at Lenton Priory from 1164 onwards. Harrison’s Calendar of Fairs for 1587 mentions Lenton but omits the Goose Fair.
The original Fair, would I imagine be akin to a farmers market with possibly, Bear Baiting, Fire -Eaters, Jugglers and Mummers with Archery and other skill at arms contests. No doubt there would be food, ale and mead available to purchase.
Nottingham however not to be beaten by it’s local rival, competed with the arrival of 20,000 plus geese from the Lincolnshire fens which would be sold to provide the traditional Michaelmas dish.
In 1764, following an increase of one third in the price of cheese, so outraged the fair-goers that they launched an attack on the offending stall holders. Huge cheeses were sent rolling down streets with their frightened owners chasing after them. Finally the Dragoons were sent in to quell the riot, after the local Mayor had tried and his dignity was flattened by a 100lb Cheese.
All manner of goods were sold at the Fairs, sheep, horses, cattle as well as geese. And as at Weyhill Fair in Wessex, women were also sold in Nottingham. By 1880, the Fair had been reduced to a three day event, commencing on the first Thursday of October. In 1928 the Fair was moved from the Market Square to it’s present site on the Forest on the outskirts of the city.
Despite numerous attempts throughout it’s history to prevent the Fair. the income from the rents paid by the showmen is financially beneficial to the local council. So despite the Killjoys, Nottingham Goose Fair has survived to celebrate over seven centuries of fun!
I would like to acknowledge the information I have gleaned from the Website of the National Fairground and Circus Archive also the Nottingham City Council.