The October Fair in Broad Street

Alresford Fair NightThe October Fun Fair has its origins in the sheep fairs of the middle ages, the greatest of which were held around Michaelmas Day and Ash Wednesday. Traditionally the Michaelmas Fair was held on the first Thursday after Michaelmas Day, originally 11 October. Michealmas Day was moved to 29 September by Act of Parliament in 1752 when 11 days were removed from the calender as Britain moved from the Julien Calender to the Gregorian Calender, but the Great Michaelmas Market in Alresford continued to be held on the first Thursday after what became Old Michaelmas Day, the 11 October, and so it remains today. If the 11th falls on a Thursday the fair is held on that day.

Legend has it that the origins of the Fair stem from a Charter of 1242 given by Henry III ratified and endorsed by other monarchs over the centuries. It is true that these Charters did allow and confirm the Thursday markets but there is no real evidence that the Great Michaelmas Market was created as a result. More likely it grew from the commercial need to sell livestock and produce in abundance at this time of the year. Local tradition has it that should the Fair not be held at any time or if Broad Street is not completely clear by dawn on Friday no more Fairs would be permitted. These are nice stories but there is no evidence to support them. Until the management of the Fair was taken over by one company there did used to be the occassional fight over the position of individual stalls and there did appear to be an accepted right that a stallholder earned their place in Broad Street based on previous years' occupation. This may be how the story arose.

Memories of the fair.

alsford