Markets and annual fairs have been held in the streets of Stamford since Saxon times. Originally established for trading specific goods and livestock, they have adapted over the centuries, resulting nowadays in the general Friday market and mid-Lent funfair. At our meeting on Thursday, 12th April, Keith Hansell will describe their long and varied history.
Most market towns received their charters in the medieval period, and in 1220, fourteen year old King Henry III authorised a Thursday market in Market Deeping, on payment of one palfrey (a small riding horse) by the Lord of the Manor, though this requirement was cancelled a few months later.
The silver penny, pictured left, was minted in London early in King Henry’s reign, and recently recovered from a field in south Lincolnshire.
In the early 1300s, Deeping received new charters for a Wednesday market and annual fair. Bourne received its market charter in 1281, and both Baston and Thurlby were granted charters for markets and fairs, in 1257 and 1318 respectively. While Bourne’s weekly market still exists, by the mid 19th century only a remnant of Baston’s fair survived, as Hirings for Servants held each May and November at the Black Horse Inn.
Market Deeping’s May fair prospered as “a show of all sorts of stock and merchandise” and in 1722 an additional great fair was advertised on the Wednesday before St James’s Day (25th July).
A century later in 1831, a large group of local farmers and cattle dealers held a meeting at the New Inn and agreed that “the town is in every respect extremely well situated … for the purpose of buying and selling cattle”. They resolved to hold sales of horses, beasts, sheep and other cattle every February and May, in addition to the two annual fairs in May and October.
For many years, Market Deeping held a wood fair every May. It seems to have been a chaotic event, as in 1809 a notice in the Stamford Mercury stated “Great inconvenience having arisen and accidents happened by the laying of wood etc in Mill Lane (now Stamford Road), in future all wood brought for sale at the fair is to be laid out of town by the sides of the road leading to Stamford, beginning at the Millfield Gate.”
By the early 20th century, Deeping fair was chiefly for the hiring of horsemen and maids, combined with a funfair. Eric Bowman, who was born in 1903, recalled the May fair arriving pulled by horses, with steam driven roundabouts and side shows lit by oil lamps. Farmers would interview men, mainly in the pubs, and when they had been engaged, they would wear a piece of horse ribbon in their buttonholes. Mr Bowman also described Bostock and Wombwell’s menagerie coming to the Market Place every few years, bringing cages of lions, tigers and monkeys, and also two elephants.
Keith Hansell’s talk starts at 7.30pm in the Conference Centre at Deepings School. Everyone is welcome. There is a charge of £2 for non-members.