Roll up! Roll up! Come and experience the sensational lights and thrilling delights of one of Europe’s oldest and largest travelling fairs! Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, Nottingham’s Goose Fair returns to the pretty green plains of the Forest Recreation Ground for ten days between Friday 30th September to Sunday 9th October 2022.

Goose Fair is undoubtedly full of fascinating tales, so we thought we’d present some of its most riveting historical titbits to get you excited.

First up… What the duck has it got to do with geese?

Goosey the Goose Fair Goose | Visit nottinghamshire

While today the only goose you’ll see at the fair is the two-metre timber statue that heralds its return (placed on what is known as ‘Goose Fair Roundabout’), geese did used to be all the rage at… Goose Fair. Hence the name.

All the way from Lincoln, Cambridge and Norfolk, traders would march their geese to the famous Nottingham market to be sold just in time for the Michaelmas celebrations which marked the end of harvest. Travelling up through the south of the city, it is recorded that around 20,000 geese would be seen gandering through Hockley in the run up to the fair, leading to the Hockley street name of Goosegate.

The Cheese Incident

Cheese | Visit Nottinghamshire

Along with the geese, all manner of other livestock, food, and particularly cheese would be sold at the fair as people stocked up their pantries for the barren winter months ahead. You can already imagine the ruckus of a busy market square full of farmyard animals, but when the Cheese Riots hit in 1766, absolute pandemonium was to break loose.

Nottingham had just been through a momentous building boom as more and more people headed to the city to find work, but at the same time food prices had risen sharply. While the day went by without much bother, the early evening saw an argument break out between a trader and some lads who were most probably bickering over the newly increased prices. A full-scale riot quickly erupted, with great wheels of cheese rolled away by thieving fairgoers leaving debrie everywhere. Two men were arrested, another is said to have died, but perhaps the most humorous part of this peculiar tale is of the Mayor who had been trying to restore the peace, only to be knocked down by a great wheel of cheese as he tried to flee.

Have a think about that next time you're walking through the Old Market Square.

Awesome Attractions

Fairground | Visit Nottinghamshire
Before the advent of planes, trains and automobiles it was much rarer for people to travel and experience new things, so the excitement was high when Goose Fair rolled around and the wonders of the world came to visit Nottingham. Along with travelling merchants bringing along their wares, more unusual side shows were introduced to entertain the masses.

Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie existed between 1805 all the way until the 1930s, and featured exotic never-seen-before creatures such as elephants, lions and tigers, and the legendary Madame Tussaud showcased her eerily realistic wax sculptures in both 1819 and 1829. Other side shows such as freak shows came into vogue, but the popularity of this kind of ‘entertainment’ declined after the 1950s due to the prevalence of television and advancements in fairground ride machinery.

Rip-roaring Rides

Goose Fair | Visit Nottinghamshire
Today’s attractions and rides have quite the polarising effect. While some people adore being swung upside down and made dizzy as a spinning top, others prefer the simple safety of the ground as they admire the pretty lights and hold everyone’s bags.

Back in the day, before crazy lasers and neon lights, most of the rides were steam-powered. (And before that it was mostly making your own fun with geese and the like). The jittery, clanking catwalk of Brooklyn Cake Walk was first introduced to the fair in 1905 and still makes an appearance today! While somewhat meagre by today’s hair-raising standards the cake-walk persists, maintaining the vintage charm that we still crave from fun fairs.

Delicious Delicacies

Candyfloss | Visit Nottinghamshire
Along with your usual fairground snap and sweet treats such candyfloss, brandy snaps, hot sugar dusted donuts and crunchy toffee apples, Goose Fair has garnered its own particular taste over the centuries. A comforting pot of mushy peas is sure to warm your cockles as you wander around the fair, but don’t forget to ask for a dollop of mint sauce - it’s a Nottingham tradition!

No doubt the most infamous Goose Fair goodie is the Cock on a Stick - a hard boiled lollipop shaped like a cockerel which tends to bring a chuckle to the fairgoers. But did you know this comical candy is not merely a mass-produced gimmick? The manufacturer of the Cock on a Stick is in fact a local chap who has been making them by hand himself for over 70 years after receiving the secret recipe from his grandfather!

If that hasn’t whet your appetite and got you eager to come and enjoy the fun of the fair, we’re not sure what will, so don’t forget to stick it in your diaries. 

For more useful infomation about Goose Fair, please click here.

This blog was written by Sophie Gargett - Marketing Assistant at Visit Nottinghamshire.


Goose Fair
Fete / Fair
Goose Fair

Nottingham’s world-famous Goose Fair will once again be held over ten days in 2023.



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