The Village Fair

In March, 1338, John Giffard told the villagers that Hugh de Audley was concerned about the hardship suffered by the people of Yalding in recent years. Hugh de Audley suggests a plan that he believes will help the people of Yalding. He intends to ask King Edward III for permission to hold a yearly three-day fair in the village.

Hugh de Audley wants the Yalding Fair to be held on the 15th, 16th and 17th October. He has chosen these dates because they coincide with the saints's days to which the church is dedicated (St. Peter and St. Paul).

Fairs were very popular in the 14th century. By 1330 there were nearly 2,000 fairs in England. Fairs were also a good way for the lord of the manor to earn extra money. He could make people who wanted to sell goods at his fair pay tolls. Another way of making money was to charge a toll on every animal sold at the fair.

Medieval musicians, Geoffrey Luttrell Psalter (1325)
Medieval musicians, Geoffrey Luttrell Psalter (1325)

Hugh de Audley wants the fair to be held on the Lees, a flat piece of demesne land close to Twyford Bridge. Hugh de Audley hopes that the fair will give him an opportunity to sell some of his animals. He will also be able to charge

people to use Yalding's two bridges. Traders will also have to pay a tax on every animal sold at the fair. Hugh de Audley also intends to charge a penny for everybody who wishes to set up a stall at Yalding Fair.

The vicar of Yalding Church, Gilbert Hughes, is totally opposed to the idea of a fair. He believes that it will attract undesirable people to Yalding. The vicar is particularly concerned about travelling entertainers who often attempt to earn money at fairs. Gilbert Hughes argues that local people will try to make money by selling ale to visitors. Entertainers tend to drink too much and this will lead to drunkenness and bad behaviour.

Gilbert Hughes is also concerned that the visitors to the fair might bring with them infectious diseases like smallpox and typhoid. He has also warned Hugh de Audley that some town people who visit Yalding Fair might try and encourage serfs to leave the village by offering them jobs in nearby towns.

1. Look at your Family Information Chart. Do you think your character would have been in favour of a fair being held in Yalding?

2. The people of Yalding plan to hold a meeting about the possibility of holding a fair at Yalding. Write a speech expressing your views on the subject.