Ancient annual Nottingham Fair

The annual Nottingham Goose Fair can be dated back as far as 1284, when a charter was granted to hold a twelve-day fair on 15th November, although another fair (St. Matthew's) had been held on 21st September since Anglo-Saxon times.

The first reference to 'Goose Fair' was in 1541, and alluded to the sale of 20,000 geese brought in for the traditional Michaelmas dish. Originally a trade fair, there were many recreational diversions, including traditional jugglers, acrobats and the like. The fair also became famous for its sale of cheeses, and they made up a good deal of trading revenue, although a 33% price increase in 1764 occasioned a riot, during which the Mayor was knocked down by a rolling 100lb cheese.

The Fair fast became a perennial favourite, punctuated only by the Plague (in 1646), Gregorian Calendar Reform (1752) and World War I. The market element gave way to entertainment over the years, despite pressure from local traders, and was also reduced in length, firstly in 1875 to five days (first Tuesday in October until the following Saturday) and in 1880 to three (first Thursday until Saturday, and it remains so down until today).

The Fair was held in the city's Old Market Square for centuries, but the development of a new Council House meant that a new venue had to be found, and after 1927 the Fair was moved to its current location on the Forest Recreation Ground a mile outside the City centre.

The first bioscope (forerunner of modern cinema) was seen in Nottingham in 1904 at the Fair - admission cost a penny. Technology now rules the day, as more and bigger rides are seen each year, and yet one thing remains unchanged - people still flock to Nottingham in their droves to enjoy the event, which draws showmen from all over the country, ready for the first weekend of October.

The contrasts between the Medieval and modern-day Fair are enormous - the overbearing smell of livestock and dung has given way to the scent of candyfloss and brandy snaps, the sound of hawkers is gone, to be replaced by the excited screams of people on the rides, which make up the biggest and best-known fair in the UK. With a hot dish of mushy peas to ward off the chill, it's a wonderful way to have fun in the Autumnal gloom.

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