London – Fairs – 1731

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 – 1731

Bartholomew FairIn another bill, of a later period (1731) a piece was performed, entitled, “The Emperor of China,” written by the author of the “Generous Freemason”. Who this author is, is not stated, but we find the latter piece to have been written by William Rufus Chetwood, who was the tutor of the celebrated Barry, and for twenty years prompter at Drury-lane theatre.

Bartholomew Fair theatricals do not appear to have been thought so contemptible formerly as at present, for both Shuter and Yates had booths there in [1761], when the prices of admission were half-a-crown for the boxes, 1s. 6d. the pit, and a shilling to the gallery.

Dramatic representations, or rather misrepresentations, still prevail at the fair, but they are of the most wretched description. Formerly the lord mayor used to proceed in great state to Smithfield, and after proclaiming the fair, wait to see a wrestling match. The proclamation of the fair by his lordship is still continued, but with much less pageantry than formerly.

Two other fairs were held in London, in Tothillfields, and at Stepney; but these have been suppressed, as have those of Bow, Edmonton, Brook Green, and West End, all in the immediate neighbourhood of London. There is another fair, which, though at some distance from town, claims a notice on account of its popularity with almost all ranks in the metropolis. This is Fairlop Fair, which is held on the first Friday of July, in Hainault forest. This fair was founded by Daniel Day, an eminent block maker in Wapping, who, having an estate in Essex, used to assemble a few friends around him on the 1st of July, under a huge oak in the forest, to dine on beans and bacon. Public curiosity was at length attracted to the spot from this circumstance, and a fair established, which, in fine weather, is frequented by thousands from the metropolis, the block-makers proceeding in a huge boat, rigged like a ship, which is mounted on a carriage and drawn by six horses.

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