London – Fairs – Three Fairs

This article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery – it covers the history of London Fairs in the 18th Century particularly the Bartholomew Fair one of the greatest London Fairs of the time.

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London – Fairs -Three Fairs

Bartholomew FairFrom markets to fairs the transition is natural enough, since the latter, according to scriptural and modern acceptation, are fixed meetings of buyers or sellers, or markets on a larger scale; and it appears, from the Northumberland-house book, that in the early part of the 16th century, the stores for the household for a whole year were usually purchased at fairs. Far different, however, are the fairs held in the metropolis and its neighbourhood, where “raree shows are seen, and Punch’s feats, And pockets picked in crowds, and various cheats.”

Three of these fairs were formerly held in the metropolis, Bartholomew fair, Southwark fair, and May fair: the two latter have been abolished, and the former shorn of much of its ancient glory. Southwark fair commenced on the 8th of September, on which day the lord mayor and sheriffs were wont to ride in their scarlet gowns, after dinner, at two o’clock, to St Magnus’s church, where they were met by the aldermen. After evening prayer, they all rode through the fair, as far as Newington bridge, and then retiring to the Bridge house they “refresh themselves with a banquet.” Here, as at all the fairs in London, there was “First of all, crowds against other crowds driving; Like wind and tide meeting, each contrary striving; Shrill fiddling, sharp fighting, and shouting and shrieking; Fifes, trumpets, drums, bag-pipes, and barrow girl squeaking.”

“There was drolls, hornpipe dancing, and showing of postures,
With frying black puddings, and opening of oysters;
With salt-box solos, and gallery folks squalling,
The tap-house guests roaring, and mouth-pieces bawling.”

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy