Salisbury Fair begins today and runs until Thursday. All rides cost just £1 before 6pm.
More info on this years fair: Salisbury City Council – Roll up, roll up, for Salisbury’s annual Funfair!
History of Salisbury Fair
I’ve been reading through the the Victoria County History’s chapter on Salisbury’s Markets and fairs
According to the Victoria County History the origin of the Charter is as follows:
In 1221 the Bishop of Salisbury obtained a grant of a two-day fair at New Salisbury on the vigil and feast of the Assumption (14–15 Aug.). An extension of the period of this fair to ten days from 14 August was included in the royal charter to the city in 1227. In 1270 a second fair lasting from 30 September to 7 October was granted, and in 1315 a third from 24 March to 2 April. No mention of the holding of the August fair has been found. By the 16th century the bishop seems to have owned three fairs, on the Tuesday after Epiphany (or twelfth day), Lady Day (or lent), and Michaelmas.
The ‘second fair’ mentioned is the Michaelmas fair – Michaelmas is the feast of St Michael the Archangel and it’s celebrated in the Western calendar on 30th of September.
The VCH goes on to say that:
In 1770 the four Salisbury fairs were listed as follows: the Tuesday after 6 January for cattle and woollen cloth; the Monday before old Lady Day (5 April) for woollen cloth; Whit-Monday and Tuesday for pedlary and horses; and Tuesday after 10 October for hops, onions, and cheese. This list was repeated in 1798, and with minor variations of date in 1831, when it was said that the fairs were falling into disuse.
So the October fair is now mid-October, but was falling into disuse in the 19th Century.
However by 1860, there were two annual sheep fairs, on 15 July and 15 October in ‘the Butts’ (what we now know as the Water Meadows, opposite the fire station).
The VCH says that
Of the older fairs the only one to survive has been the October fair, held in the 19th century on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after Weyhill Fair, near Andover. By the later part of the century it was entirely a pleasure fair, although still an important stimulus to trade;
I wonder whether the old ‘Charter fair’ which was ‘falling into disuse’ was amalgamated with the sheep fair, over at the Butts.
- It’s also known as ‘Salisbury Charter Fair‘ but I don’t remember anyone calling it that until 5 or so years ago. The ‘Charter’ refers to the Henry III’s Charter of 1227, which granted Salisbury permission to hold the October fair [↩]
- The picture is of Cambridge Midsummer Fair 2005. Photo is Copyright Andrew Dunn, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, and I got it from File:Terminator and Paratrooper, night.jpg – Wikimedia Commons. Mr Dunn’s website is Andrew Dunn Photography [↩]