If you’re from Nottingham, you’ll know all about the Goose Fair that takes place each year during the first week of October. Whilst the fair won’t be going ahead this year, we want to celebrate its history with some lesser known facts about this famous Nottingham institution.

The fair is much older than people think

Most historians agree that the Goose Fair began back in 1284, when the charter of King Edward I referred to city fairs in Nottingham.

The Goose Fair wasn’t always known for its rides and entertainment

Although it’s known for its rides and games now, Goose Fair started as a trade event and enjoyed a reputation for its high-quality cheese. In fact, the name probably came from the hundreds of geese which were driven from Lincolnshire to be sold in Nottingham!

The fair used to be held in September

The fair was originally held in September on St Matthew’s Day, but moved to early October in 1752.

The Goose fair has only been cancelled a handful of time – and only with good reason

It takes a lot for Nottinghamians to cancel the Goose Fair. In fact, it’s only been cancelled a handful of times: first because of the ‘Black Death’ which ravaged Nottingham in 1646, and again during the two World Wars. More recently, it has been cancelled for two years in a row due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Spooner, Arthur, 1873-1962; The Goose Fair, Nottingham
‘The Goose Fair, Nottingham’ by Arthur Spooner (1873 – 1962), Nottingham City Museums and Galleries.

The fair used to take place on the Old Market Square

Contrary to popular belief, the fair hasn’t always been located at Forest Recreation Ground. Before the 1920s, the fair would take place in the centre of Nottingham on the Old Market Square.

Nottingham Castle is home to the famous ‘Goose Fair’ artwork by Arthur Spooner

Located in the Art Gallery, ‘Goose Fair’ by Arthur Spooner (1873 – 1962) is on display in the Ducal Palace at Nottingham Castle thanks to Nottingham City Champion of Culture Sir Harry Djanogly. If you want to see the painting in all its glory, you can access the Art Gallery as part of your general admission ticket to Nottingham Castle.




Source material: “BBC – Nottingham – History – History Of Goose Fair“, bbc.co.uk, 2021.