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Fairs and Religious Days. Wednesbury, Wolverhampton, Halesowen, Romsley, Walsall, Stourbridge.

No, not the Pat Collins variety, the older ones that were granted by Royal Charter, and which seem to have died out in the early 1900s. From the history books, the early ones were an absolute riot, Fun, Frivolity, and Fornication being the main attractions. Order seems to have restored in 1752, when an act of Parliament laid down a few rules on how they were to be run. Amended in the 1820s, the rules at least tried to prevent the sale of stolen, rotton, or under weight goods, with a stiff fine for any offenders. I have a feeling they were only partially successful. For a start, whoever had control of the Fair, was allowed to charge " Tolls ". Not for entry to the grounds, but for each transaction of the sale of Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, and other livestock. These had to be recorded, which cost 1 penny per item, and if a written record was needed, the cost rose to 2 pence. Same with the sale of Cheese, Corn, and Salt, which had to weighed and marked, and again a Toll was required. The standard weight for Corn, was the " Winchester Bushel ", which was the equivilent of eight gallons, and anyone selling short, could be fined £5, and the complainant got to keep the goods, free of charge. Horses and Cattle, could only be sold on the ground laid out by the Fair owner, and required, in addition, someone to vouch that the animal belonged to the seller, and that he also knew him/her. Stolen animals could be claimed back, the seller facing a fine of £40, or worse, if he was the actual thief. These Fairs produced a great deal of profit for the Lord of the Manor as you can imagine, but many got rather out of hand in the 1880s, with Beer flowing more frequently than water. Here then are a few dates on which the Fairs were held, at least in the 1830s, although many of them could be removed to other dates as required. Wolverhampton; The date here was July 10th, and there were no restrictions on what could be sold within the ground, thus raising a lot of money for whoever held the licence. Walsall; Three Fairs here, on February 24th, and again on Whit-Tuesday, for the sale of Horses, and Horned Cattle. On the tuesday before Michaelmas-Day, Horses, Cattle, Cheese and Onions could be sold. Dudley; Again, three date for Fairs, the 8th of May, when Cattle, Wool,and Cheese would be on offer, 5th August, when Lambs and other Cattle changed hands, ( I presume this meant those Cattle without Horns ) and on 2nd October, when Horses, Cattle, Wool and Cheese were put up for sale. Halesowen; Easter Monday and Whit-Monday, ( two dates which were movable within the Church Calender ) interestingly, produced not only the Horses, Cattle, and Cheese, but Toys as well. ( Now where did they come from ) Just down the road at Saint Kenelms, on 28th July, there was just a single product on offer, Cheese. Wednesbury; And I have left this one until last, for on the two days allowed for a Fair, 6th May, and 4th August, there was such mayhem in the Town, that Law Officers from other Towns had to be called in. The only stuff up for sale was listed as Pedlary, which of course meant the town was full of Pedlars, Tinkers, and others who travelled the roads selling goods. How on earth anyone managed to collect any Tolls without getting assaulted remains an enduring mystery. Out of all this, sprang some truly legendary Police Officers, handy with both fist and batton, and they needed to be, fearlessly wading in where others feared to tread, even the Armed Militia.

By comparison, Birmingham, which also had two Fair days, the Thursday in Whitsun-week, and 29th September, never had any trouble like Wednesbury. Horses, Cattle, Sheep and Hardware were the reason for these Fairs, and it may be because that they had a bigger Police Force, and better Armed Militia, that by and large, it was better contained. Stourbridge, just on the edge of our region, was much more refind, they had three Fairs a year, 8th January, 29th March, and 8th September, at which many Horses, Cattle and Sheep, as far as I know, peacefully changed hands. Given the rather dour economic future we all face, maybe it's time to revive a few of the old Fairs, although not on the same level as the Wednesbury Fair of Old.


A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 18, 2012 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 46

You could also buy ribbons and threads at those fairs.

December 2, 2013 at 5:28 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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