Goose Fair

For the past 16 years, ever since my friends moved to Nottingham, I’ve been saying I must go to Goose Fair. Last weekend I finally got round to going.

Goose Fair is thought to have started in the 1200s and was originally a fair for traders, particularly those trading geese – thousands would be walked to Nottingham from Lincolnshire to be sold. These days it’s just a funfair with rides and food but because of its origins and because it is reputed to be the biggest fair in Europe it is both well-known and well-attended. Truancy rates in the local schools always soared on the Friday of the fair and so now the day is set aside as an inset day.

I went to the fair on Saturday evening after spending the afternoon sitting inside and outside various old Nottingham pubs. With the sun shining it was so nice to be able to sit outside and relax enjoying a good beer, a nice lunch and good conversation.

Outside Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem
Inside Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem

We started with lunch at a bar opposite the castle and then wandered down to ‘Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem for 3 beers. Well, why have one when you can have three? The pub sells real ales and offers a ‘pick and mix’ of them – three half pints of beers of your choice served on a wooden platter. Of course it had to be done. The pub itself is interesting as it’s built into the caves. Nottingham is riddled with sandstone caves that until relatively recently people still lived and worked in. It’s possible to do a tour of the pub’s cellars but these have been withdrawn at the moment. I would be interested in going along on one when they start them up again as caves always interest me and caves that are utilised as modern day buildings interest me even more.

Next we went along to ‘The Royal Children’ which apparently got its name when the children of King James II’s daughter, Princess Anne, were entertained there back in the 1600s. Inside is a whalebone which used to hang above the door and was painted with the name of the pub. This dates to the time when whale oil became popular in oil lamps and the whale oil companies would use the bones as a means of advertising.

Finally we stopped off at ‘The Salutation’, another old and well-known pub. This seemed to be a bikers’ pub and had loud music and lots of men with leather and tattoos. It also sold real ale and I got quite a nice beer. It’s built over caves which are open to the public, though we didn’t go down them. (Got to leave myself a reason to go back!)

After this we made our way to Goose Fair and spent a few hours wandering around, trying out rides and food. I went on the big wheel to get a good view of the whole fair and was able to appreciate the size of it. I had hoped to see more of Nottingham but it was too dark by this time and the bright lights of the fair blotted out of the rest of the view.

I ate mushy peas with mint sauce and bought cocks on sticks as presents. Mushy peas are something I usually eat with chips, but here they were sold as a snack in their own right and the stalls had large bowls of mint sauce on their counters for customers to add and stir into their tubs of mushy peas.

The cocks on sticks are a tradition and have been made out of sweet rock for over 100 years by the same family. It took a while to find the stall as it’s only small but eventually we did. Originally they were sold as geese on sticks but at some point the name was changed to the snigger-inducing cocks on sticks by the classy ladies of Nottingham.

Finally we headed home. Goose Fair done, old pubs done, caves under pubs still to do.

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