Welcome to the Fair

Bartholomew Fair as illustrated in 1808.

This website is about a Cloth Fair that began nearly 900 years ago, its development as Bartholomew Fair until 1855, and its rebirth as a City-wide spectacular in 2023. The site is a collaboration between The City Courant magazine and a group of councillors and residents who have organised events around the original site of Bartholomew Fair and also supported publication of a Souvenir Edition of the magazine. Read about the two Fairs in the souvenir edition of The City Courant – and find puzzle and quiz answers here.

Bartholomew Fair returns to its roots – the final week

Programme for the Fair in Cloth Fair and Smithfield plus history of the area

Reports and video of the first two events on 30 August – ribbon cutting and The Great Disputation

Bartholomew Fair

In 1133 the Priory Church of St Bartholomew started a Fair, under charter from Henry I, to bring visitors to Smithfield and help fund a hospital. The Fair ran until 1855, attracting 100,000 people at its peak, and at one stage ran for 14 days.

In 2023 the City of London is re-staging a contemporary version of the Fair across the Square Mile to attract visitors whose spending will support an economy hit by working from home. Church and Hospital celebrate their 900th anniversary.  The programme runs from 31st August to 16 September, and says:

“The epic recreation of Bartholomew Fair in the City of London will see over 30 free events, live performances, and unique spectacles in a contemporary reimagining of the capital’s greatest historic event.

“The exciting full programme includes the world-premiere of RESURGAM, a stunning vertical dance performance on St Paul’s Cathedral; Dinner for All, a major immersive theatrical circus experience; and Carnesky’s Showwomxn Spectacular, a new promenade theatrical show directed by Olivier award winner Marisa Carnesky”.

Cloth Fair

Bartholomew Fair was originally a market to trade wool and textiles, and the street next to St Bartholomew’s reminds us of its origin. The area also has a strong literary tradition,  and with this in mind, Cloth Fair’s local councillors and residents have come together to celebrate the area’s rich history alongside Bartholomew Fair.

Our programme organised with St Bartholomew The Great includes:

  • Traditional ribbon cutting by the Lord Mayor – video here
  • The Great Disputation with high profile speakers – video here
  • William Blake Society talk
  • Book launch on 41-42 Cloth Fair
  • The Cries of London by The Gentle Author
  • Plus the Reinvented Clothing Popup Shop

Find out more and book here for Cloth Fair 2023

Exploring the City

Bartholomew Fair is the highlight of the Corporation’s Destination City programme to attract visitors to the Square Mile. The top aim of the Fair is “To engage audiences with the City’s unique culture and heritage” and the first presentation of plans promised to “Improve wayfinding by increasing awareness that the City is not individual buildings, but a collective of fascinating places to see, spend in and work at”. More here about exploring the City, including an unofficial map of Fair locations.

This website and the Cloth Fair programme is a voluntary effort and still work in progress- so please excuse any glitches on the site. More on our development here. Feedback very welcome. David Wilcox with the Cloth Fair group.