The thriving hub of Fairford

It seems particularly appropriate having gone through one lockdown and possibly approaching another to reflect back on Fairford Market Place and its history as the thriving hub of the community especially, as over the past few months, the Market Place has been relatively quiet and not always the bustling, busy centre of the town that people are used to.

the bull

Most of the time, the Market Place in Fairford serves mainly as a car park but, hundreds of years ago, it was used by vehicles of another kind. Horse-drawn coaches travelling east and west between London and Gloucester and Oxford and Bristol as well as drovers on the old Welsh Way stopped at the Bull Hotel for refreshments and to use the hotel’s stabling facilities.

Inside the Bull Hotel, Fairford
Photo by Chris Roberts MBE

There has been a market in Fairford for over 800 years and the present-day weekly Wednesday market (9am-1pm) started in 1986 selling a wide variety of products. You can get bread, pies – both sweet and savoury, fish, cheese, cakes, pet food and goods, fruit, vegetables and more.

Fruit & veg at the Fairford Wednesday market
Photo by Chris Roberts MBE
wednesday market
steam in the square

Through the years, the Market Place has seen life in many forms. When Fairford Carnival started in 1894 to raise funds for Fairford Cottage Hospital, the Carnival Parade wound its way through the Market Place on its journey round the town. It was very similar to today’s Fairford Festival Parade, which usually takes place at the beginning of June. In August, steam engines would congregate in the Market Place on a Friday evening prior to the weekend of the annual Traction Engine Rally and everyone would have a great time, eating, drinking and being merry and taking in the ambience of days gone by.

Steam engines in the Market Place
Photo by Chris Roberts MBE

In 1897, the local community put up flags and bunting and gathered in the Market Place to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. And, then in 1977, there was a themed Parade through the Market Place for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. In June 2002, it was the turn of Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and the Market Place was closed to vehicles, so that local children could enjoy a tea party in the street to mark yet another historic event. And who can forget the 50th anniversary of VE Day in 1995 when Fairford held a weekend-long series of events for young and old in a marquee in the Market Place? In 2010, people congregated in Fairford Market Place to watch more than 20 Town Criers take part in the first Town Criers’ Competition to be held in the town for 10 years.

town criers
Town Crier Competition August 2010
Photo by Chris Roberts MBE

For centuries, Fairford’s Market Place has been the hub of the community and will hopefully continue to attract residents, visitors, events and community activity for many more years to come. Every year for the past 20 years, residents and visitors have looked forward to the Fairford Festive Market, which takes place on the first Friday in December. This year, however, the Festive Market is yet another event that has fallen victim to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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