Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Fair Time

What a fabulous morning here in East Yorkshire - bright sunlight, no breeze, chill and damp. Autumn is here! In this part of the world, there are many associations with this time of year and one of the local folktales is related to the arrival of Hull Fair. This is the largest and oldest travelling fair in Europe.

We don't say, "the leaves are starting to fall" or "it's damp and chilly out there," or "first frosts must be due," we say, "It's Hull Fair weather."

In 1993, Hull Fair celebrated its 700th anniversary. The first Charter granting permission for a fair  to be held was in the days of yore, 1278,  for two weeks in March. A few other Charters and date changes took place and when all the calendars changed in 1751, the locals in Hull were pretty brassed off that they were losing several days of their fair, so the official date of the fair starting was set for the 11th October or the nearest Friday to it. This year it started on Friday 5 October.

The fair is held today on Walton Street car park, adjacent to West Park and now next to the recently built magnificent KC Stadium, the home of football (soccer for my USA friends) team Hull City AFC.

Of course since medieval times, the fair was a trade show, people came to buy and sell their wares.  As time moved on, entertainment was introduced, jugglers, theatrical shows, puppeteers all plied their trade to keep the populous happy. Although there have been many sites for the fair as the city has developed over the centuries, Walton Street has been the home of the fair since 1888. Queen Victoria was on the throne and it was the year Brazil finally abolished the last remnants of slavery, Jack the Ripper was at large in the Metropolis and China's first railway began operations.

There have been marvellous and famous entertainers offering a weird and wonderful spectacle for  public delectation. With a break for the war (1939-45) where the ground was used for the military, the fair then became bigger, better and doubled in size.

As a child I remember the bags of goldfish to be won hooking a duck, or throwing a ring over a prize or by throwing darts at playing cards on a wall. The coconut shy was in full swing and the rides were tame apart from the big wheel which then seemed outrageously high and modern. Helter-skelters proved popular as did the ghost train, the extraordinary wall of death with the motorcyclists (how the hell did they ever do that?) Bumper cars (dodgems), having your palm read and the traditional bag of chips were the order of the day.

We always brought back coconuts, bags of hot chestnuts, candy floss, nougat (broke your teeth), toffee apples (which weren't toffee at all but covered in a solid sticky clear liquid)  and the most famous of all - brandy snap.

I haven't been back to the fair for many years, it hold no interests for me now the kids are grown. I would love to go and take some photographs perhaps and experience the smells of the food and sights and lights - another year perhaps. 

If you are thinking of going, then don't go by car and expect to park, it's a nightmare, but there are very effective park and ride facilities on the outskirts of the town which are cheap and very frequent.500,000 visitors are expected in the week of the fair and the experience is generally very safe and pleasurable with lots of facilities.

This is a very good little video from the 2011 fair from

Enjoy this lovely autumnal weekend, take care.

Chat soon



  1. We used to have an April fair in Lincoln every year - and we too used to talk about April Fair weather (it almost always rained and the South Common, where it was always held, became a quagmire very quickly).

  2. Hi Weaver
    Thank you so much for that story. It shows how we contextualise local events with our life and in fact it becomes our culture and very important culture at that - it's what makes us who we are.

  3. I don't think you would get me on any of those rides. I hope everyone has a great time and enjoy a family day out.