Stourbridge Fair

Stourbridge Fair

Began August 24 for three weeks
In the 17th century the Stourbridge Fair, held at Stourbridge (or Sturbridge) near Cambridge, was England's chief place of exchange. It was established around 1200 as a benefit for the local lepers' hospital, and it was put on by the town and Cambridge University beginning on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, and continuing for about three weeks. It was held at Duddery Square, where all the cloth and clothing shops were located. Merchants and wholesalers could buy everything from Italian silks to furs from the Baltics and linen from Flanders. Those who attended the fair would bring home souvenirs known as "fairings"—originally relics or images of saints, but later trinkets of all sorts or gingerbread in the shape of hobby-horses covered with gilt. The fair was held for the last time in 1855.
Although there were other amusements for fairgoers, including rope dancing and puppet shows, those who wanted to see the greatest entertainers of England and Europe would go to London for the Bartholomew Fair, which was held at this same time of year.
SOURCES:
BkFair-1939, p. 170
YrFest-1972, p. 162
Mentioned in ?
References in classic literature ?
But the city was thin, and I thought our trade felt it a little, as well as other; so that at the latter end of the year I joined myself with a gang who usually go every year to Stourbridge Fair, and from thence to Bury Fair, in Suffolk.
It was perhaps because of the famous Stourbridge Fair that, as Paul Slack illustrated in his seminal publication The Impact of Plague on Tudor and Stuart England, the city was one of the first to isolate plague victims (in 1556).
Plague closed the university, caused the cancellation of the economically vital Stourbridge Fair, scared farmers off from delivering food, and panicked officials into banning public entertainments.
For example, at Stourbridge Fair in 1664, Newton bought the prism with which he reproduced some of Descartes' light experiments from the Book of Colours and found that Descartes was sometimes wrong.