It’s almost that time of year again, Goose Fair time here in Nottingham!
The Nottingham Goose Fair goes back over 700 years and is arguably the largest travelling fair in the country. It’s origins lie in the Old Market Square in the city where it was a livestock fair that traders would bring their wares into the city through the various ‘gates’. Nowadays it’s situated on the Forest Recreation Ground on the outskirts of the city, (yes it’s one of the places where Nottingham Forest used to play).
Always traditionally kicking off with the Lord Mayor ringing a bell on one of the rides on Midday of the first Thursday in October and lasting until late on the Saturday night, the fair now starts a day earlier.
Nottinghamians can still occasionally be heard to refer to ‘Goose Fair weather’ – the type of days and nights we all recongnise, characterised by an Autumnal ‘nip’ in the air. In truth it’s usually lashing down with rain at fair time! There is even a kind of unspoken ‘uniform’ for visiting the fair which included wellington boots, thick jumper and waterproofs!
The Goose Fair is strictly a huge travelling funfair these days which gathers around a mile from it’s original site in the Old Market Square in the city. Formerly the gathering was based on a livestock market. Geese, being a popular dish at that time of the year in those days, were driven in their thousands from reputedly as far away as Lincolnshire and Norfolk. The story goes that the geese would have their feet encased in tarmac-like stuff for their feet to survive to walk.
Around Nottingham which was a walled city in those days, there are still many roads named ‘Gate’ Warser Gate, Wheeler Gate for example. These were actually the sites of real gates at the walls of the town. Goose Gate still exists and is on the east side of the city which would support the geese coming from those eastern counties story.
The Old Market Square in Nottingham is reputed to be the largest in Europe but as the fair grew ever more huge the site had to be changed to it’s present day one where it still thrives early every October.
The only connection apart from history nowadays is the large model goose placed amongst the flowerbeds on the main traffic roundabout near the fair to denote festivities. Unfortunately it was kidnapped one year by students for a prank though now sits proudly back in place as observed on my drive home last night.
As a lad the big thing was to get the old man to treat you to a ‘Robin Hood’ bow and ‘arrer and the famous Lincoln Green hat with a feather. You’d also count yourself unlucky if you didn’t return home (exhausted) with a goldfish (which invariably died the next day) and a 2000 year old coconut with not a thimbleful of milk in it won by dad’s unnerring aim on the shies. This was always hung from a back garden tree for the blue tits the next day after finally opening it with a pneumatic drill and sledge hammer.
The boxing booth, where a drunk or two would always jump up and volunteer for a good leathering was always very entertaining before you stuffed yourself stupid with mushy peas and mint sauce, hot dogs, candy floss, toffee apples a cock on a stick, brandysnaps and gaudily coloured fudge.
I’m away down there this year I reckon for some rough magic. I’ll be the one with the luminous neckband and the Elvis mirror…