The Future of Sherwood’s Past

The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project Logo

Goose fair

Mercian Archaeological Services Community Archaeology The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project

Visitors since 7th November 2013

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC

Community Archaeology in the East Midlands,

 Community Archaeology Nottinghamshire, Excavation, Research, Volunteering, Community

    Archaeology Derbyshire, Training, Social, Learning, Community Archaeology Leicestershire,

    Heritage, Involvement, Belonging, Knowledge sharing, Community Archaeology Lincolnshire,

    Topographic Survey, Talks and Presentations, Outreach, Archaeology Projects , Open

    Days, Schools, Finds Processing, Day Schools, Field Schools, Young People, Archaeology

    and History of Sherwood Forest, Pottery Research, Medieval, Roman, Prehistoric, Community

    Interest Company, Community Archaeology Nottinghamshire.

Community Archaeology in Nottinghamshire

Community Archaeology in Derbyshire

Community Archaeology in Leicestershire

Community Archaeology East Midlands

Community Archaeology in Lincolnshire

© Mercian Archaeological Services CIC 2013.                           Registered Business No. 08347842.                                All Rights Reserved.

Fairs were an important part of medieval life.

They were essentially large markets.

Their size, and the fact that they were less frequent; enabled goods to be traded from further afield.

As a result they were worth a lot of money to their owners and carried great prestige.

medieval fair

Competition often occurred with towns folk who held stalls at the local markets.

One of the largest fairs in medieval Sherwood Forest was held annually at Lenton Priory- the largest and wealthiest religious house in Nottinghamshire.

Lenton fair had stalls for 'bedders', 'fishers', 'skinners', 'mercers', 'drapers', and 'cookeries' (food stalls) amongst others, and there were silks and spices from across the known world...

The weekday market (at weekday cross in the current Lace Maket, Nottingham) and the Saturday market (held in the market square in the centre of town) were closed down for such events.

To appease the locals; compensation was paid to the marketeers, who were also granted the first choice of stalls at the fair.

medieval goose

The oldest surviving fair with Medieval origins in Sherwood Forest is 'Goose Fair'.

It is believed that the name comes from the droving of Geese to the market by traders.

Goose was traditionally consumed at the feast of Michaelmas which falls on the 29th of September.

The first reference to what would become 'Goose Fair' comes from a charter of 1284 in the reign of Edward I- permiting an 8 day fair in the town of Nottingham around the feast of St Matthew in September.

As a result the fair was originally known as 'St Matthew's Fair' and although it became known as 'Goose fair'- there is no historical account of a specialisation in geese- in the 17th century it was predominantly a horse fair and by the 18th century it was famous for cheese!

 Goose Fair was originally held in the market square in the centre of Nottingham, but moved to the 'Forest recreation ground' in the early 20th century following centuries of fun, boozing, debauchery, and the odd riot or two.

Alongside the clammer, mayhem and noise; the bright silks and smoke from fires; the air would have been thick with the smell of fish, animal hides and flesh, spices and fruits. Stall holders would have rubbed shoulders in the market square with booze sellers, cut-purses, ne'er-do-wells, outlaws, friars and clergymen, bear-baters, mummers, dancers, performers, musicians, and entertainers.

Later accounts show how the focus shifted more and more from the trading event to a travelling show, but they also give an insight into the life and vibrancy of the event.

An 18th century account shows: 'caravan after caravan, cart after cart... peculiar looking people, that are as necessary to a fair as flowers are to May... all kinds of strollers, beggars, gipsies, singers, dances, players on harps... and similar wandering artists and professors' (Beckett and Tolley 2006 in Beckett (ed.) 2006).

The Medieval fair must also have been home to similar entertainments...

By Victorian times Goose Fair had evolved essentially into a funfair.

Goose fair is still held annually in Nottingham in the first week in October- and is now one of the largest and most popular travelling fair grounds in Europe...

...sadly little resembling the original Medieval trading fair currently survives, but maybe that will change in the years to come?..

Click here for more ‘Stories from the Forest’…

Click on the image above to help sponsor the project

The Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project is a Community Project sponsored by the community for the community. Please consider supporting us and our work.

goose fair nottinham

Picture: modern day Goose Fair

Home About us Services Testimonials Projects Publications Staff Contact 
Sherwood Forest History

Click on the image below to see the project blog:

Robin Hood Town Tours
Info 4 Groups Talks and Tours Experience Days Heritage Bus Tours Field Schools Sherwood Forest Notts 1000 Shop


Award Winners 2016

for "Engaging people in the heritage, history & archaeology of Sherwood Forest".

Official Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project T-Shirt for just £9.99 +p&p

Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project T-Shirt Sherwood Forest Archaeoogy Project Mug

Official Sherwood Forest Archaeology Project Coffee Mug for just £8.50 +p&p

World-wide Robin Hood Society

Robin Hood Society Feather in Your Cap Award 2016

 Project page links:


 Project Home page


 About the Project


 Funding the Project


 Project Partner Organisations


 Project Sponsors


 Robin Hood Challenges






 Finds Processing


 Bus Tours - Outreach


 King John’s Palace


 Robin Hood’s Village




 Battle of Hatfield


 St Edwin’s Chapel


 Clipstone Village Dig


 Medieval Sherwood Map




 Links page


 About Sherwood Forest


 Forest Law


 Why Sherwood Forest?


 Boundaries of Sherwood


 Landscape of Sherwood


 Outlaws & Villains


 Stories from the Forest