Bromsgrove Fair Day Cancelled but Ancient Charter is Proclaimed
In 1199 King John granted a Charter to Bromsgrove that it may "hold a Fair and keep holiday" on a Feast of St John the Baptist, the Patron Saint of the parish which is MidSummer's Day the 24th June.
Ever since that time the Court Leet has been organising the annual Fair Day in June, in recent times on the closest Saturday to 24th. Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic has succeeded in interrupting this historic tradition, a feat only achieved previously by the World Wars. It is believed that not even the Great Plague of the 14th Century was able to prevent this important day in the town's calendar from taking place.
The 2020 Fair Day was all set to be a very historic occasion as the first female Bailiff in the Court's 820 years, Ms Joanne Slade, was to lead the colourful parade of Court Leet members and guests along the High Street and the ancient tradition of the fair coming to town was to be revived. The colourful Court Leet parade was planned to be extended to include local scout and guide groups and the High Street was to be full with a capacity market of mostly local sellers and charities in traditional costumes. The traditional assizes of ale, bread, meat and leather given by the Officers of the Court were to be followed by entertainment from local choirs and musicians.
Although the current restrictions in place have stopped the 2020 Fair Day from taking place, the Bailiff, accompanied by the Court Leet Bellman and Town Crier Kevin Ward, proclaimed the ancient charter by St John's Church. The proclamation was streamed on social media and is available to view the Court Leet Bromsgrove Facebook page. It is hoped that the tradition of the 1199 Midsummer Fair Day, which is unique to our town, will continue for years to come once the pandemic is over.
The date for the 2021 Fair Day will be Saturday 26th June.
Bromsgrove Fair Day - a short history
When the Domesday Book was written in 1086 Bromsgrove is recorded as being “King William’s land” with a Reeve, Beadle and a Priest and a community of 18 villages. Just over one hundred years later, in 1199 the town, still within the Royal Manor, was granted a charter to "hold a Fair and keep Holiday" on 24th June, Midsummers day. The Charter was one of the first in Worcestershire and the annual, important Fair was for buying and selling horses and cattle, linen and woollen cloth, raw wool, cheese and other goods.
The early fairs probably took place at the bottom of the church steps on a green or on cobbled street by the ford in the brook. As the year’s passed, and the town grew in size, the fair was held on the High Street and the shopkeepers could bring their wares onto the street and residents could create a pen in front of their property and hire it out to sellers.
The Midsummer Fair was a highlight of the year for the town, attracting visitors from far afield, farmers in white smocks with decorated horses, acrobats and jugglers, music and songs from minstrels, gypsies in colourful costumes telling fortunes – a day of merriment for the town, along side the serious business of selling animals and goods.
From the early days of the Fair, The Bailiff, in full regalia of office, along with Ealdormen and Court Leet members would walk the Fair, with bellman and pole bearers to accompany them. This tradition continues to this day, and in the 1980’s a traditional style street market was reintroduced to the day, now held on the closest Saturday to Midsummers day.
In recent years on Fair Day, local craft traders and charities are encouraged to take a stall at the market which runs alongside the weekly Saturday market in the High Street. Schools and Scout groups are invited to join in the day and townsfolk are welcomed to enjoy the Fair and partake in this centuries old occasion.
The Bailiff of the Court Leet proclaims the Charter of 1199 and the Officers of the Court report on their findings. Ale Taster, Searcher and Sealer of Leather, Brook Looker, Breadweigher and Carnitor all carry out an “assize” to show to the townsfolk that the goods offered for sale are good, wholesome and fit for consumption, and that the brooks are well maintained.