Bartholomew Fair re-staged – from 1923 to 2023

While this year’s re-staging of Bartholomew Fair is certainly the most ambitious, it isn’t the first. I’ve been digging around newspaper and other archives, and here’s what I’ve found so far.

The Fair was originally started by St Bartholomew the Great to support what became Barts Hospital, and both are currently celebrating Barts 900.

The hospital staged a substantial re-enactment of the Fair for its Octocentenary celebrations in 1923, over several days. The Sphere provided an illustration, showing a temporary bridge across to the rotunda garden.

The Fair featured stocks …

also recorded by Pathe News

More here about Bartholomew Fair in 1923

Fifty years later the hospital held a one-day event which greatly appealed to Simon Jenkins, writing in the Evening Standard:

“This was not one of those rather mangy entertainment fairs which still linger on common land round the metropolis This was a full-blooded cauldron of everything that used to make the medieval fair the hub of the City’s life.

“There were not just coconut shies, hoop-la, helter-skelter, carousel, swings, beauty queens, and lost children. There was a vast roasted ox, mead and mulled wine, a fortune teller, two superb fair-ground organs blaring out across the roofs of Cloth Fair, Punch and Judy, flower girls, monkeys and even men dressed up as bears”.

There were also events supported by other organisations in 2000 and 2001, and 2006 and 2010. Peter Murray explains the role then of the Festival of Architecture and second Bienniale.

Smithfield Market celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018 with a strong flavour of Bartholomew Fair.

I’ve created separate pages with archive material and clippings all linked from here: Re-staging Bartholomew Fair 1923 – 2018. This post, and the pages about previous Fairs, are first drafts which I’ll update after further research and discussion with organisers. If you know more about these events, or others, do let me know. David Wilcox

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