British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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364                        st. Bartholomew's day.               [Aug. 24.
gates, for debts and contracts, before a jury of traders formed on the spot, at which the prior, as lord of the fair, presided by his representative. It remained always by its original site, being held in Cloth Fair to the last. There is no record to be found of any ordinance by which the court of Pie≠powder was first established in this country. There never had been known a fair in Europe to which such a court was not by usage attached. Such courts were held in the markets of the Romans, which some writers regard as fairs, and in which they find the origin of modern fairs. The court of Piepowder in Bartholomew Fair, or the corresponding court in any other fair in England, had jurisdiction only in com≠mercial questions. It could entertain a case of slander if it was slander of wares, not slander of person: not even the king, if he should sit in a court of Piepowder, could extend its powers. In 1445 four persons were appointed by the court of aldermen as keepers of the fair and of the court of Piepowder, the city being thus in that case represented as joint lord of the fair with the prior. As the fair prospered it was rendered attractive by a variety of popular amusements. All manner of exhibitions, theatrical booths, &c, thronged the fair, and tumblers, acrobats, stilt-walkers, mummers, and mountebanks, resorted to it in great numbers. Shows were exhibited for the exhibition of puppet-plays, sometimes constructed on religious history, such as " The Fall of Nineveh," others were constructed on classic story, as " The Siege of Troy." Shows of other kinds abounded, and zoology was always in high favour. In 1593 the keeping of the fair was for the first time suspended, by the raging of the plague. The same thing happened in 1603, in 1625, in 1630, in 1665, and in 1666. The licence of the Eestoration mainly arising from the low personal character of the king, but greatly promoted by the natural tendency to reaction after the excess of severity used by the Puritans in suppressing what was not to be suppressed, at once extended Bartholomew Fair from a three days' market to a fortnight'sóif not even at one time to a six weeks'óriot of amusement. In 1678 the civil authorities had already taken formal notice of the " Irregularities and Disorders " of Bartholomew and Lady Fairs, and referred it to a committee " to consider how the
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