Hereford May Fair (2024)

 By my reckoning, this year is the 903rd anniversary of the Hereford May Fair. The first fair was in 1121 AD (or CE) and, according to the charter, is to be held on the Feast of Saint Ethelbert and the two following days. Hereford Cathedral, which can be seen in the background of Photo 1, is dedicated to St Ethelbert

Photo 1: Part of the Hereford May Fair (2024)

Clearly, some time-warping has occurred because the May Fair is always held on the Tuesday to Thursday after the early May Bank Holiday whereas the Feast of St Ethelbert is the 20th May. Hereford's St Ethelbert is this one, and not this one. Leominster's and Ludlow's May Fairs take place a few days earlier; I think I'm correct in describing these two May Fairs as smaller occasions that ultimately combine to provide the larger Hereford version. The Ludlow version can trace its history back to 1461 but I cannot find a definitive start date for Leominster - I suspect it might be a relatively new addition to the calendar.

Photo 2: Hereford May Fair (2024)

As Photo 2 shows, the modern May Fair is basically funfair rides with hoopla stalls. Unfortunately, the prizes are the usual tat; likely to be reclassified as rubbish within a few weeks. It has probably always been like this, in recent memory anyway.

There are usually lots of complaints from the older generations and those inconvenienced by the May Fair as it takes over the City Centre and a number of streets and roads are temporarily closed. In the past, there have been rumours of an increase in shoplifting and petty crime during the May Fair. Some businesses have complained of poor footfall and sales for the duration of the Fair; it must be especially difficult for hot food providers because of the competition from the Fair's food & drink stalls. When we were trying to rent accommodation for our move to Hereford twenty years ago, I recall the estate agent rescheduling our phone call because the noise from the Fair was too loud!

 A few years ago, there were discussions about moving it out of the City Centre but it looks like it is here to stay. Generally, we avoid the City Centre while the Fair is on but we have no desire to see it curtailed or moved. It is only for three days of the year and a good deal of people find it  entertaining. On the day I took these photographs, I was in town for a doctor's appointment and a visit to our favourite cheese shop, The Mousetrap.


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