The Stow Green pleasure fair, in Lincolnshire, which has been held annually for upwards of eight hundred years, having been established in the reign of Henry III, has practically ceased to exist. Held on an isolated common two miles from Billingborough, it was formerly one of the largest fairs in England for merchandise, and originally lasted for three weeks. Now it is limited to two days, and when it opened last year there were but few attractions.
Fairs have enriched our language with at least one word. There is a fair at Ely founded in connexion with the abbey built by St. Etheldreda, and at this fair a famous “fairing” was “St. Audrey’s laces.” St. Audrey, or Etheldreda, in the days of her youthful vanity was very fond of wearing necklaces and jewels. “St. Audrey’s laces” became corrupted into “Tawdry laces”; hence the adjective has come to be applied to all cheap and showy pieces of female ornament.
Trade now finds its way by means of other channels than fairs. Railways and telegrams have changed the old methods of conducting the commerce of the country. But, as we have said, many fairs have contrived to survive, and unless they degenerate into a scandal and a nuisance it is well that they should be continued. Education and the increasing sobriety of the nation may deprive them of their more objectionable features, and it would be a pity to prevent the rustic from having some amusements which do not often fall to his lot, and to forbid him from enjoying once a year “all the fun of the fair.”
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF OLD DOCUMENTS