Hereford May Fair 900 logo

 

In 2021, Hereford's May Fair celebrates the 900th anniversary of the granting of its charter. Events and activities will take place during the year to mark this unique milestone and celebrate the vibrancy of the fair today.

View the planned celebration events and activities

The charter for a fair, to be held on the feast of St Ethelbert and two days following was granted to the Bishop of Hereford in 1121 as a way of raising money for the Cathedral. A later document invited all the barons and burgesses of England to come to Hereford's fair and assured them of a good time!

Old house may fair 16 1895

Hereford May Fair around 1895 and in more recent times.

During the fair, the Bishop had rights of control over all trade and those coming into the city which caused many disagreements between the city officials and the bishop over the centuries. The fair was also a time when the rent was due - rents of cinnamon and pepper and cloves.

Derek Evans image of show girls dancing at May Fair

Dancers/paraders on the front of Mrs Price’s show with crowd looking on, Commercial Road at Hereford May Fair, 1950s.

In 1838, control of the fair and all its rights passed to the City Council and the duration was reduced to two days. At that time it was one of eight annual fairs. Only the May Fair now survives.  

As well as the pleasure fair that it is known as today, the fair also sold livestock, poultry, butter and other produce in the early 19th century and by the late 19th century was also a hiring fair for hiring new servants.

Derek Evans image of Variety Show at May Fair

‘Dooner’s Famous Living Pictures Variety Show’ at St Peters Square. An early form of travelling cinema (or cinematograph as it was then called). Early 1900s.

In 1912, the suffragettes took a stall and did a brisk trade in selling their paper Votes for Women, and in 1930, there was a rather different side-show when the public were invited to pay sixpence to look round the old prison (on Commercial Road) before it was demolished - the proceeds went to Hereford General Hospital.

Photographs courtesy of Herefordshire Life Through a Lens and the Derek Evans Studio Archive.