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Recently the infamous ‘David’ has popped up yet again, this time stating that Northampton’s large medieval  fair, which began on St George’s  Day, lasted for ten days and may have provided a legitimate reason why Anthony Woodville, Earl  Rivers, bypassed the town and went straight on to Stony Stratford with young Edward V,  instead of meeting the Duke of Gloucester  as arranged.

However, there is a problem with this theory. Although there was indeed a fair held in Northampton,  a rather famous one which attracted traders from all over the Midlands, it was only in 1495 that Henry VII granted an extension to the days it was held, increasing them to eight. It would appear that the original fair was only about three days long.

Even had the fair been eight or ten days long, this was unlikely to prove terribly problematic as far as accomodation went. Northampton was an important centre (although it had been in decline since the Black Death in the 14th c) and had seen during its history several parliaments and the trial of  Thomas Becket. There was even a crusade called at one of the town churches. It had every manner of religious house, scores of inns, and several hospitals. In the 15th c many high-ranking nobles had their own townhouses there; the Dukes of Buckingham had one such residence on Derngate, for instance.

If the fair was seen as a possible deterrant to Rivers entering the town with Edward V, surely Anthony, more than anyone, should have known the situation in advance, being  from a Northamptonshire family, with the Woodville home at Grafton Regis  little more than ten miles from Northampton! Why then agree to a date that would cause some kind of problem with overcrowding? Why not tell the Duke of Gloucester to meet him and the young king elsewhere? (It is also highly unlikely that Richard himself was unaware of the existence of this large, well-attended fair.)

Lastly, regarding room in the town, it seems that Gloucester, Buckingham, and their men, totalling about 600, had no problem finding their own lodgings in Northampton, fair or no fair.

*’David’ may think the content of this post is ‘un-fair.’*



map of medieval Northampton




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7 thoughts on “KEEP ON DIGGING….

  1. This is the same “David” who now claims to “know” that the Marquess of Dorset wasn’t born in 1371, even though Harriss in the ODNB says that it was the most likely year, but hasn’t told anyone how he knows. Similarly, he has speculated on Sir Hugh Swynford’s activities in 1470-1!


  2. Alan White on said:

    When and where did “David” put this argument? In a comment to a Facebook group? Which one?


  3. hoodedman1 on said:

    Here is a list of the medieval fairs of Northampton. It does not actually state how many days the St George’s fair lasted (other than to mentioned Henry making it 8 days) but it appears it was NOT the ‘great fair’ of Northampton, and although it may have lasted longest it was not either the most important or the longest running. It was the November fair that was the ‘great’ one, and the one after Trinity Sunday seemed an important one too.

    Prescriptive) All Saints (1 Nov); recorded ante 1153. Before 1153, Earl Simon of Northampton II granted a tenth of the profit of the fair held in the ch and churchyard of All Saints to the M of St Andrew’s priory (VCH Northamptonshire, iii, p. 23). Fair mentioned in 1213, 1214, 1218, 1219, 1224 and 1226 (RLC, i, p. 154; PR, 16 John, p. 21; PR, 2 Hen III, p. 94; RLC, i, pp. 177, 388, 580; RLC, ii, p. 8; CRR, xii, no. 2118). On 9 Nov 1235, K Hen III ordered that the fair was not to be held in the cemetery or ch of All Saints henceforth, but instead at a vacant, waste piece of land to the north of the ch (CR, 1234–7, p. 207). In the thirteenth century, this was one of the great fairs of England. In 1334, the fair lasted from 1 Nov to 30 Nov (VCH Northamptonshire, iii, p. 23).
    F (Prescriptive) George (23 Apr); recorded 1272×1307. Documents of the time of K Edw I (1272×1307) refer to the fair (J. Charles Cox ed., The Records of the Borough of Northampton (Northampton, 1898) ii, p. 187). On 22 Dec 1495, K Hen VII granted mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of Northampton a fair on 1+f+6 George, lasting 8 days, to be held in the town (CChR, 1427–1516, p. 272). Fair recorded in 1566 (VCH Northamptonshire, iii, p. 24).
    F (Prescriptive) Hugh (17 Nov); recorded 1272×1307. Documents of the time of K Edw I (1272×1307) refer to the fair (J. Charles Cox ed., The Records of the Borough of Northampton (Northampton, 1898), ii, p. 187). A fair on 1+f+6 Hugh the bp was granted on 22 Dec 1495 by K Hen VII to mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of Northampton, to be held in the town (CChR, 1427–1516, p. 272). Fair recorded in 1566 (VCH Northamptonshire, iii, pp. 23–4).
    F (Charter) Mon after the octaves of Trinity Sunday+27 (Easter dep); gr 18 Mar 1337, by K Edw III to mayor, bailiffs and burgesses of Northampton, to be held in the town (CChR, 1327–41, p. 390).
    F (Charter) vfm, James the apostle (25 Jul); gr 20 Jul 1268, by K Hen III to A and C of St James without Northampton, to be held at the abbey (CChR, 1257–1300, p. 100). A of St James without Northampton was holding the fair in 1330 (QW, p. 570). After the Dissolution, this became a town fair. It continued until c.1700 (VCH Northamptonshire, iii, p. 24).


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