"23 August was a red-letter day in the City calendar as it marked the opening of the largest of the London fairs, the Bartholomew Fair, held at Smithfield"
Cloth Fair, London EC1 The street of Cloth Fair, the site of the mediaeval annual fair, runs alongside the church of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield.
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCloth Fair, London EC1 The street of Cloth Fair, the site of the mediaeval annual fair, runs alongside the church of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield. - Credit: Diedre Shaw

 

St Bartholomew's Fair held in Smithfield, London, was one of the largest and most important of the Charter Fairs to be held in the capital.  Royal Charters authorising street fairs dated back to the Middle Ages and although their popularity declined from about the 15th century, some have recently been revived, but from cultural interest rather than as commercial outlets for goods, which was their original purpose.  During the traditional three days of the fair, goods were sold in abundance, including cloth, spices, waxes and exotic foodstuffs. 

 

As the name of its sight suggests, Bartholomew's Fair sold cloth in bulk, often direct to wealthy customers, bypassing the city merchants until it became the largest cloth sale in the country, with an international reputation.  First granted a Royal Charter in 1133 in order to raise funds for the Priory of St Bartholomew, the fair continued annually until the city authorities put a stop to it in 1855 on the grounds of encouraging debauchery and public disorder.