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Medieval Stourbridge Fair reenactment due at Leper Chapel





One of Cambridge’s oldest complete buildings, the Leper Chapel at Barnwell, will host a re-enactment of the famous medieval Stourbridge Fair on Saturday (September 3).

Stourbridge Fair at the Leper Chapel has been an annual reenactment since 2004. Picture: CambridgePPF
Stourbridge Fair at the Leper Chapel has been an annual reenactment since 2004. Picture: CambridgePPF

The Stourbridge Fair was granted permission by King John and was first held in 1211 to raise money to support the hospital caring for the city’s lepers. It grew to become the largest medieval fair in Europe. Organisation of the fair was a complex matter and at its height it became a small town. Layout of the fair became fixed enough for street-names to be used. Some are still with us: Garlic Row, Oyster Row, Mercer's Row.

When the leper colony closed in the late-thirteenth century, the fair was handed over to the town, and by 1589, it had grown to become a five-week event. Stourbridge Fair continued until 1933 and was then revived in 2004 as a re-enactment by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future, who own and care for the Leper Chapel.

Ione Evans and Richard Braun with some of their Tudor wares at Stourbridge Fair. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ione Evans and Richard Braun with some of their Tudor wares at Stourbridge Fair. Picture: Keith Heppell

The fair is a free community event with dancers, musicians and storytellers set to keep visitors entertained. There will be stalls, activities and history talks and the University Proctor and Constables will be on hand to keep order. It is also a great opportunity to see inside the Chapel which is usually closed.

The event, 12-4.40pm, starts at noon with the traditional opening proclamation, given by the Proctor of Cambridge University. The Cry set out the rules for the fair, including how beer could be sold, fines for mis-selling and banning bad behaviour. The event will be opened by the Mayor of Cambridge.

Medieval dancing at Stourbridge Fair. Picture: Joanne Taylor
Medieval dancing at Stourbridge Fair. Picture: Joanne Taylor

For the first time, people will be able to use the Chisholm Cycle Trail to reach the Fair, which this year will extend onto a new green space that has been created between the Trail and the Chapel. The last time the Fair was held was in 2019.

The Chapel is located next to Newmarket Road in Cambridge, close to Cambridge United football stadium.



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