claymore slinger


\Clay"more`\, n. [Gael. claidheamhmor a broadsword; Gael. claidheamh sword + mor great, large. Cf. Claymore.] A large two-handed sword used formerly by the Scottish Highlanders.

\Sling"er\, n. One who slings

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Medieval Fair

1150 Garlic Fair granted to St Radegund's

According to Taylor, Garlic Fair was granted to the Nuns of St Radegund in the mid 12th Century. Assuming they are writing about the same event, Willis and Clark seem to disagree, saying that it was granted to St Radegund's in 1438.
It was always low-key and few details remain in written records. Nevertheless, its longevity must have meant that it had great economical and social significance. It was held at the time of the Assumption (or the pagan Lammas), in mid-August. Its site was within the walls of the nunnery, off Jesus Lane, and was entered by a gate in a mud wall.
In 1496 the nunnery was disolved, and its buildings and grounds were taken by the newly-founded Jesus College. Garlic Fair continued regardless, at least until 1654, when a reference to the Garlic Fair gate was made in the records of Jesus College.

The Fair was later moved down the road a little.

1201 Reach Fair granted to Town

In 1201, a Royal Charter from King John to the Mayor and Burgesses of Cambridge, gave them control of the Fair in the hamlet of Reach, 10 miles from Cambridge. Since the reign of Henry II, the Burgesses of Cambridge had a legal monopoly over water trade in the region of Cambridge, and this new charter extended their power.
It allowed the Town to control trade, and to deal summarily with trade offences and civil disturbances in a piepowder court. No charter would have been sought or granted had there not already been a considerable trade at Reach, so the fines and stall holders' fees made the charter a valuable possession.

Reach Fair was held on 3 days at Rogationtide, which replaced the pagan festival of May Day, and is thus the first of the Cambridge fairs in the calendar.

Reach had many of the geographical and political advantages of a frontier trading post. There was good transport along waterways to Reach, which was a Roman port. It was connected by a man-made channel, Reach Lode, to the river Cam. Being on the edge of the fens it also had reasonable roads, and was a comfortable distance from Cambridge with its road communications. The end of the defence work Devil's Dyke divided Reach, each side belonging to a different parish Thus, it never had a parish church and never came under the control of one parish.

Timber and iron was imported from the from Baltic countries, and corn and clunch exported. Clunch was the hard chalk used in Cambridge buildings, which was quarried in Reach and nearby villages.

In the centre of Reach, a fair green was created by levelling part of Devil's Dyke, and hythes and basins were created for the water-bourne traffic.

1211 Midsummer Fair granted to Barnwell

Midsummer Fair was granted to Barnwell Priory in 1211 by King John. The fair was held from 22-25th June, on Midsummer Common, roughly in the area of the modern Elizabeth Way.
Its orgins probably go back much further than this, as its pagan Midsummer date might suggest. In addition to serious trade, there were entertainments such as wrestling, singing and music.

1211 Stourbridge Fair granted to Leper Hospital

The charter to hold Stourbridge Fair was given to the leper hospital by King John. It was held on Stourbridge Common, named after the Stour, a tributary to the Cam just to the East of the common. The spelling of "Stourbridge" in the name of the fair has also variously been "Sturbridge", "Stir-Bitch" and "Stirbitch" (a spelling now preserved in the domain name Stirbitch.com).
An important factor in its growth was its location next to the river where barges from King's Lynn and the Wash could unload. Also a major East-West road to Newmarket was served by a ferry ar that point in the river Cam. Thus, the fair was accessible to the whole country. It was also close to the lively town of Cambridge, but no individual or authority could impose limitations or taxes.

1280 Stourbridge Fair control by Town

In the late 13th Century (not 1280 precisely) the leper colony on the edge of Cambridge closed, and Stourbidge Fair was handed over to the Burgessses of Cambridge, who individually held rights to booths or stalls.
The Fair was held at a convenient time between harvest and ploughing, when there were crops to be sold, lesiure time, and money. Travel was also good at this time of year. As it was outside of term time, many tradesmen who would otherwise be engaged with University business could participate.

The rights proved to be very profitable and tensions developed between the University, which wanted to exert more control on behaviour, and the Burgesses who were in favour of expansion. Piepowder courts were held by the Town authorities to deal with minor nuisances.

1506 Midsummer Fair control by Town

The Burgesses of Cambridge had for some time been having more and more influence on Midsummer Fair, and by 1506 gained full control.
Its character changed, and over the following couple of centuries it became a very fashionable place to be seen. There were raffles for pictures, china and millinery. Roundabouts were propelled by hand, and later by horse. It was famous for its china, and became known as Pot Fair.

It was extended from 4 days to a fortnight, and was much more profitable to the town than Stourbridge Fair.

1511 Reach Fair decline

In 1511, the first financial statement was recorded for Reach Fair. Profits were only 6s 2d. Taylor suggests that by this time it had become a mere excuse for an outing of the Corporation.
In the 18th century there was feasting and parades on a grand scale. Imports of coal, wine, timber and bricks were still recorded, but amusements were more important, and the Fair was always opened by Mayor and Corporation with pomp and feasting.

By the early years of the 20th Century, the main stock was Welsh ponies. The Fair is still going today. Now it is timed to coincide with Spring Bank Holiday, and consists largely of a fun fair, with some horse trading.

1589 Stourbridge Fair control by University

For some time the Town, University and Crown had been contesting rights over Stourbridge Fair. In 1589, a new charter gave control over its running to the University, but the Town retained the profits.
Stourbridge Fair was very successful. It originally ran for 2 days, but now lasted from 24 August to 29 September. The charter of 1589 stated that it "far surpassed the greatest of and most celebrated fairs of all England; whence great benefits had resulted to the merchants of the whole kingdom, who resorted thereto, and there quickly sold their wares and merchandises to purchasers coming from all parts of the Realm".

The Town was supposed to use all its profits for taxes to the Crown, and to cover costs for "ways, streets, ditches and other burthens". Descriptions from later years suggest however that a lot must have been consumed by corporate feasting, and there was probably also a degree of corruption in its administration.

1681 Garlic Fair move

The Master's garden of Jesus College was extended over the area where Garlic Fair was held. The Fair was moved along Jesus Lane to the corner of what then became known as Garlic Fair Lane, which is now Park Street.
According to Willis and Clark, the records of Jesus College state that a wall was built round the Master's garden in 1681. Was this the time that Garlic Fair was forced to move?

1700 Stourbridge Fair popularity

Stourbridge Fair was clearly a major national event, and worthy of comment, sometimes in very colourful terms, by a number of writers, including Samuel Pepys, John Bunyan, Edward Ward, and Daniel Defoe.
John Bunyan used Stourbridge Fair as the model for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim's Progress, which in turn prompted Thackeray's Vanity Fair.

The first surviving eye-witness account is due to Edward Ward, in the 1700 pamphlet A Step to Stir-Bitch-Fair. According to Ward it was referred to as "Bawdy-Barnwel" as it had numerous brothels. He described the crowd, "an Abstract of all sorts of Mankind", the smells of fish, tar and soap, and the vast array of goods for sale in large semi-permanent booths: perfume, hats, toys, cabinets, books, hardware, leather, tobacco. Cloth and wool was sold in huge bags in the Duddery. And men from London came to the Fair not to do business, but to "drink, smoke and whore".

Daniel Defoe described the Fair in his Tour through the whole island of Great Britain, published in 1724. He noted that goods did not necessarily change hands at the Fair, many wholesalers coming to the Fair to take orders for goods that would be delivered at a future date - a more modern way of doing business that, together with improved communications, would eventually render such large fairs obsolete. Toward the last few days of the Fair the social events would dominate the trading. The gentry would arrive for the "puppet-shows, drolls, rope-dancers, and such like". On the last day there was a horse fair, and the gentry would leave the common folk to race with horses and on foot.

1750 Stourbridge Fair decline and eventual fall

By the mid 18th Century the Fair had passed its peak. Tax returns suggested smaller income for Town, though the social side unaffected.
Caraccioli wrote An Historical Account of Sturbridge etc in 1772, noting changing patterns in the fair, which now only lasted a fornight. The booksellers were gone, now presumably working through shops, and new marketing and banking systems made large fairs outmoded for commodities. In the 18th century a navigable river was less important than previously, canals and turnpike roads providing alternatives and opening up the increasingly important new industrial areas in the North and Midlands.

Henry Gunning reminisced about the Fair he use to visit in late 18th Century as a town official. He commented on the sale of cheese, which was mainly of local origin and being sold to London. The Duddery wool-market was still in existence, but beginning to decline. Hops and pottery still occupied a lot of space at the Fair. There was a row stretching from the river ferry crossing to Newmarket Road that included "silk-mercers, linen drapers, furriers, stationers, an immense variety of toys, and also of musical instruments". There were also "the usual mixture of dwarfs, giants, conjurors and learned pigs". Entertainment and food and drink were clearly important, and after 1740, following persistent opposition from the University, a theatre was permitted with "many respectable, and frequently excellent performers".

Towards the end of the 18th Century, Cambridge coporation was corruptly dominated by the Mortlock family. Booths became private property, depriving the Town from income. The civic procession at the Fair was abandoned in 1790s, and the theatre demolished as unsafe in 1803.

In 1811 the Stourbridge Fair fields were enclosed, and any land not controlled by the University proved to very valuable. Some of the ground previously occupied by the Fair was built on, and some quarried for bricks. The railway was built on the site of the Duddery. The Fair could still kept people entertained after the harvest, but it ceased to be of major economic importance. Town shops now looked forward to extra custom from the Fair, rather than fearing its competition.

Following enclosure, Victorian Cambridge expanded quickly, and the previously rural fair location became a rough area on the edge of the expanding town. The gentry were not comfortable in such an area, and the locals had little money. By contrast, Midsummer Fair, with its more central location, was much better favoured. The Fair now lasted only a few days, and consisted mainly of entertainment. By 1933, when the Fair was officially abolished, it had, unusually for one of the great fairs of the country, completly faded away.

1850 Midsummer Fair decline

By the mid 19th Century, like all fairs, Midsummer Fair was in decline, and was cut back to last only 4 days.
Amusements played a much more dominant role, though horse trading was still important at end of the 19th century. Ater 1870, steam powered rides appeared, and the entertainments included freak shows, boxing, wrestling, and moving pictures.

Nevertheless, Midsummer Fair benefitted from its more central Cambridge location, and survives to this day.

 

 

 

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