Midsomer Norton Fair Day
Midsomer Norton Fair day, still remembered by older
residents of the town, actually has its roots in the granting of a Royal
Charter by Henry III to Hugh de Vivonia in August 1248.
Now the Fayre is to
return 763 years after it first took place in 1249.
Charter for a Fayre was granted to Hugh De Vivonia who held the manor at
Midsomer Norton in 1248 for a fayre to be held for three days from the Eve
of the Feast of St John the Baptist.
Text of the Royal Charter of 1st August 1248
For (in favour of) Hugh de Vivonia. The King to the
Archbishops etc. greetings.
Know that we, by grant and by this our charter, have confirmed/affirmed to
our well esteemed and faithful/loyal Hugh de Vivonia that he and his heirs
in perpetuity may have a fair at his Manor of Midsomer Norton each and every
year, to last for three says, namely from the day before the Eve of the
Feast of St. John the Bapist, and on the Eve, and on his Saint’s day itself,
provided that this fair is not a nuisance to neighbouring fairs.
Wherefore we wish and firmly instruct on our own behalf and that or our
heirs that the said Hugh and his heirs in perpetuity may have an annual fair
at his Manor of Midsomer Norton, to last for three days, namely from the day
before the Eve of the Feast of St John the Baptists, and on the Eve, and on
his Saint’s Day itself, with all the franchises and customer dues of a
charter pertaining to such a fair, provided that his fair is not a nuisance
to neighbouring fairs, as has been stated.
As witnessed by John de Plesset, Earl or Warwick: John Mansell, Abbot/Prior
of Beverley; William de Cantilupe; Ralph Fitz-Nicholas; Bertram de Crioil;
Paulinus Peyur; Robert le Norreys; Ralph de Wauncy and others.
Given by our hand at Woodstock on the first day of August 1248.
However, most local people will remember Midsomer Norton Fayre day as being
25th April and it is not known when or why the date moved.
From medieval times to at least 1910, the fair operated more as a cattle
fair, where dairy cows were sold and sheep penned from the island as far as
Stone’s Cross. Horses were sold outside the Hollies.
However, by the end of the 19th century the entertainment element began to
take over in the form of a stream-driven ‘Fun Fair’. It was presumably for
this reason that the Highway Committee recommended in 1892 that the fair be
held in a field. The fair seems to have caused much annoyance to the shop
trade as well as to traffic.
In 1893 a compromise was eventually reached whereby the street could be
used, but that the surveyor was to ‘receive the tolls for the shows which
visit this fair to be held at Norton the 25th inst'. On this occasion the
surveyor was able to collect £5.4.0 from the tolls at the fair.
Nevertheless, an application was made to the Duchy to view the original
provision of the fair charger in June 1895 and in 1911 new arrangements were
Although the cattle fair seems to have disappeared sometime after the Great
War (1918), the fun fair continued to flourish, and in 1921 was extended
from one to two days.
However, in 1961 the question of the closure of the fair was again
considered in relation to the Fairs Act of 1871, which then resulted in its
final removal from the High Street. A new site was offered in the field
adjoining the Hillside Avenue housing site, but it was eventually held
elsewhere. Later venues included the car park at the North Road Recreation
Ground and on West Hill Gardens Recreation Ground, but with its
centuries-old link with the centre of Midsomer Norton severed, the fair died
an ignominious death.