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