by Michele Ann Young
One of the things a historical author has to do, apart from providing and entertaining story, is to bring something from history to life for the reader. In The Lady Flees Her Lord, most of the story is set in the English countryside in an imaginary village in Kent near Maidstone. Because I have amazingly fond memories of English country fairs all across the country, I decided that it might make a good form of entertainment for my characters, seeing as they would be spending little time in London.
Fairs were originally set up by royal charter for trade. They also involved an element of entertainment and over time villages held their own small fairs on the village green as an annual event.
So I went looking for descriptions of what might be going on at such a fair. The picture at the top is of Bartholomews fair in London. This was a huge event and a country fair would be very much smaller and more intimate and the games much more hokey.
Roundabouts were popular, but as you can see from this image, not the kind of fancy carousel you might think of today. Games like ducking for apples, (bobbing) were considered great fun, and the lucky dip in a bran barrel was always the height of the day.
There would be competitive games, archery, the greasy pig, and a form of tug of war. I had lots of fun researching what kinds of games one might find at a fair during the Regency and of course giving my characters lots of grief in the process. So here is just a little of what went into my research.