Nottingham Goose Fair


A Charter granted in 1284 by Edward I authorised the burgesses of Nottingham to hold a fair on the eve of the feast of St Edmund and for twelve days following. Another fair mentioned was the St Mathew's Fair held on September 21st which supposedly dates back to Anglo Saxon times. However the main fair for the people of Nottingham in terms of trade and economy was the Lenton Fair held at Lenton Priory from 1164 onwards.
In the middle ages Lenton Priory fair overshadowed the Goose Fair in size and importance. Harrisons Calendar of Fairs for 1587 mentions the Lenton Fair but not the Goose Fair. However Nottingham competed with its local rival and the arrival of over 20,000 Geese from the Fens in Lincolnshire would be sold to provide the traditional Michaelmas dish.

In 1764 an increase of a third on the price of cheese resulted in the outraged punters launching an attack on the stall holders at the fair. Huge cheeses were bowled down the street, with the frightened owners following them. Finally the Dragoons had to be sent in to control the mob after the attempts by the local mayor had resulted in his dignity being flattened by a 100lb cheese.

In 1751 calendar changes affected Nottingham and no fair was held the following year. All manner of things were sold at the Goose Fair: sheep, horse, cattle, as well as geese and as at Weyhill Fair in Wessex with the wife-selling scene from Mayor of Casterbridge, women were also sold at Nottingham.

By 1880 the fair was reduced to a three day event and started on the first Thursday of the month. In 1928 the fair was moved from the Market square to its present site on the forest on the outskirts of the city centre.

Despite attempts throughout its history to prevent the fair, the income from rents paid by the showmen is financially beneficial to the council. So regardless of the cheese riots, and the various attempts from the killjoys, Nottingham Goose fair has survived to celebrate, in 1994, over seven centuries of fun.