Category Archives: Stevenage Charter Fair

Stevenage Charter Fair

Did you know the history of the town’s Charter Fair dates back to 1281, when Edward I issued a royal charter granting the town the right to hold a fair and market?

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Visitors to the fair in the early 1900s

On the outskirts were to be seen the caravans where the showmen and their families lived … Then there were the shooting galleries, where young women pressed you to try your luck, the swings, in which many too old to be called children enjoyed themselves. Passing there in safety, which required care, you were asked to have a throw at a cocoa-nut. The steam round-a-bouts with their music were much patronised; then there was a booth with a performing pony, a young girl on a tight-rope; in the next booth animals and birds went through various tricks; in another large tent there was a very good ghost illusion, also many other attractions. But alas, this year there was no wild beast show …

From the local newspaper, 1886

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The merry-go-round in 1907

Owing to the lateness of the harvest and the fine weather, the fair this year was a greater success than ever and the travellers all seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Special trains were run from Hitchin and other places, while brakes etc. brought people in from all the surrounding villages, so that at one time on Monday evening when the High Street got simply impassable it was computed that upwards of 9,000 persons were present. The old shows of the fat women, wild man of the woods etc., seemed much out of date, and were not nearly so well patronised as were the more modern cinematograph shows, of which there were three, with their newest attraction of singing living pictures . . .

From the local newspaper, 1907