Another of our looks at some of the major funfair events throughout the UK. One of three fairs to carry the name ‘Goose Fair’. nottingham is the largest. The others being in Tavistock and Colyford East Devon.
History dates the event back to a royal charter in 1284 granted by King Edward I. Though fairs in Nottingham were thought to predate this. Originally taking place in September, it was moved to an October date in 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted.
It has taken place every year since then, save for 1646 when an outbreak of the bubonic plague stopped it, the two World wars, and obviously 2020 when the covid pandemic struck.
The creation of fairs by royal charter was a common occurrence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. King Henry II had granted a charter for an annual Martinmas fair in Lenton Priory in November. This gave prominence to that event and prevented other fairs from competing with it. The 1284 charter giving Nottingham it’s own fair saw the event grow in size and prestige.
Records first mention the Goose Fair name in 1541, where it is referred to in borough records as ‘goosey fair day.’ The name comes from the thousands of geese driven from Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire to be sold in Nottingham. Like many fairs it started as a trade fair, for the sale of livestock, geese and most famously its high quality cheese. At this time it was based in the Old Market Square.
In common with other events of the nature, side shows and other entertainment was added to the event, gradually diminishing the trade element. As shops evolved and transport links increased, annual events like this were no longer a necessity to stock up the larder. The dawn of steam and mechanisation saw rides being added to the event. The traditional carousels, switchbacks, gondola rides and animal manageries gradually increasing in mumber.
As the event spread out it overwhelmed the market square and began to cause problems with congestion, not helped by the increase in traffic through the town centre. The decision as taken to move the event in 1928 to the Forest Recreation ground. A move resisted by the showmen, but in the event proving ideal, being twice the size of the market square.
Held annually on the recreation ground for five days, it boasts over five hundred attractions. Everything from traditional carousels to the latest white knuckle thrill attractions.
The roundabout on the approach to the fair is notable for its giant fibreglass goose called ‘Goosey’ which appears in the run up to the fair taking place. The Lord Mayor opens the event with the ringing of a pair of silver bells. Still a massively popular event attracting over 500,000 visitors annually the fair has an excellent record as regards safety and trouble happening.