London – Fairs – 1700s – Roasted Pigs

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 – 1700s Roasted Pigs

Pye-corner was also celebrated for roasted pigs, a prominent attraction in the fair, which were sold piping-hot in booths and stalls, and ostentatiously displayed. Various allusions are made to the Bartholomew Fair pig in Ben Jonson’s comedy of Bartholomew Fair, whence we learn that these delicacies were not confined to one particular place in the fair. Littlewit, addressing the puritanical wife, Win-the fight, says,

“Win, long to eat of a pig, sweet Win, i’the fair; d’ye see, i’the heart of the fair, not at Pyecorner.”

Of their attractiveness we have evidence in the Festivous notes of Gayton, who says, “If Bartholomew Fair should last a whole year, nor pigs nor puppet-shows would ever be surfeited of.”

Although Charles II. only confirmed the original charter of Henry II. which limited the fair to three days, yet it appears to have extended to a fortnight’s duration, either in his reign, or soon after, as we find from Ned Ward, who describes “the quality of the fair strutting round their balconies in their tinsey robes and golden leather buskins, expressing such pride in their buffoonery stateliness, that I could but reasonably believe they were as much elevated with the thought of their fortnight’s pageantry, as ever Alexander was with the glories of a new conquest”

The drolls, or “motions,” as they are more generally called in the early accounts of the fair, were a sort of dramatic entertainment performed by puppets, and generally founded on some part of the scripture history. Ben Jonson, in his play, gives the names of several of these motions; and among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, there is a collection of advertisements, about the reign of Queen Anne, in which there are some curious bills of the performances in the fair. Two of these (printed in the Percy Anecdotes of Pastime) are of “Operas,” called the “Old Creation of the World newly Revived” and one of them gives the “addition of Noah’s flood; also several fountains playing water during the time of the play.” The other adds a portion of the history from the New Testament, including the birth of Christ, Herod’s cruelty, the Feast of Dives, his treatment of Lazarus, and concluding with “Rich Dives in hell, and Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom; seen in a most glorious object, all in machines, descending in a throne, guarded with multitudes of angels, with the breaking of the clouds, discovering the palace of the Sun, in double and treble prospects, to the admiration of all spectators.”

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

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Further reading and external links

Bartholomew Fair on Wikipedia

Bartholomew Fair on Inside London

Sholto and Reuben Percy