Bartholomew Fair 1923

The St Bartholomew’s Hospital Journal Octocentenary celebrations number included a full report of the re-staging of the Fair in 1923. It prefaced the report with an image from the London Illustrated News, imagining the how the fair originally looked.

Octocentenary celebration report on the Fair

View a pdf of the Journal here. Reports start at p 129, and then 149. More here about the Journal. Thanks to Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums for their help.

Pathe news

This illustration of the 1923 Fair appeared in The Sphere

Main report of the Fair

THE idea of reviving Bartholomew Fair was a brilliant one – we do not know who conceived it. But it was no light task to turn the idea into a concrete fact. No one can deny that the task was successfully accomplished. It might drizzle, it might rain, or it might be fine in a sulky kind of way, but the Fair went with a swing from start to finish. The earlier part of the celebrations was dramatic and impressive, but many will remember the Fair the longest of all. How can we describe it? Recipe: The Three Arts Ball, Burlington Arcade and Hampstead Heath on a Whit Monday- partes aequales. Misce. Sig.:To be taken in front of the Smithfield Gate from 2 to 7 p.m. three days a week. But do not follow this prescription more than once in eight hundred years!

Read the full report here

Report on the Fair by A Merchant Taylor

A bumble-bee, asked to describe a beautiful garden in which it had spent a busy morning, replied, “Just a row of peonies two and a half miles long.” Asked to describe the Fair one is tempted to say:
“The sky was dark grey, dripping canvas; the ground was a muddle of cretonnes soaked in mud.
Across a wilderness of bedspreads, rugs, blankets and more bed spreads poured weary visitors who felt they ought to buy, but really didn’t want to. Behind, piles of cloth, reaching quite to heaven, dripping places, and occasionally organising an avalanche into the dreary cavern of wet ‘remnants’ and disintegrating brown, paper below.”
Neither the spirit of that dripping Wednesday evening, nor the spirit that drove one exhausted Elizabethan to exclaim, “Thank God, I shall not be alive for the nine-hundredth,” gives anything like a true picture of the Fair. It did not rain quite continuously. Some rolls of cloth actually got sold. There were other stalls besides ours–and other things besides stalls. There “buck-shee” Dinner on Thursday night;
There was also a Conversazione.

More on page 161 in the Journal above

The Fair in 1973

The Hospital re-staged the Fair in 1973. See press cuttings and archive material here.