From the earliest days Hull had a fair. This was a free fair, where merchants and traders could bring their wares to sell or buy, free of the trading restrictions that normally prevailed. Most town of any size had a fair; Beverley for example had four short ones, the most important being the Cross Fair, held on the day before Ascension Day. Although the purpose of Hull Fair was trade, there must always have been some frivolity.
In 1598 Hull applied for and secured a new charter from Queen Elizabeth which made some changes in the way the town ran itself, and amongst them was a change in the date of the annual fair. For the first time it was to be held not in Spring but in Autumn. Change takes time, and it was on 16th September 1600 that Hull Fair was first opened on its new date.
“Tempore Anthonij Burnsall maioris This present 16 day of September it was agreed by the Maior and his bretheren that open proclamacion should be maid for a free fair.”
“The fare for the selling buyeng or exchanging of horses mares geldinges coolts fillies or fooles shalbe kept without the North gate of the said towne and all alongst the walls from the said Northgate Westwarde and thear shalbe 3 principall daies during the said fare for the selling buyeng and exchanging and shoo of horses &c: the 16 dai of September the 22 day of the same month and on the feast of St Mychaell which shalbe the last showe.”
So horses were traded outside the walls, from North Walls which today is alongside Hull College and then towards Beverley Gate, today on the Guildhall side of Queen’s Gardens. During the fair there were three days for showing all animals: September the 16th, 22nd and 29th (Michaelmas). On Google Maps North Walls is called “N Walls”.
“The fare for the selling buyeng or exchanging of beastes and all other Cattell shalbe kept all alongst the Manner walles frome the sewer side alongst Denton laine and so to the Posterne northward and the first day to be the xvj of September the second the 22 and the principall fare daie the feast of St Mychaell.”
The beasts and other cattle are cows and they are being sold within the town walls. The Manor walls were the walls of the King’s Manor, more or less the site of Lowgate Post Office up to Bowlally lane. Denton lane is now Bowlalley Lane, but where the sewer ran, I don’t know. The “Postern northward” is not Posterngate which was on the west wall, and so this may indicate that there was another postern somewhere on the North Wall.
If so then the cattle were shown down Denton lane to its junction with what is now the Land of Green Ginger and then turned right into what is now Manor Street (the western end of King’s Manor) crossing the modern Alfred Gelder Street and the present Guildhall and ending at a postern in the wall just before Queen’s gardens.
Alternatively the “Postern northward” might be Lowgate Bar, which stood at the northern end of Lowgate, where it now meets Guildhall road. If the “Postern northward” is Lowgate, then the cattle market would been on Lowgate, from Bowlally lane northwards to the end of Lowgate.
“The Sheepe fare shalbe kept during all the said fare in Myton gate and the laines and landes thearaboutes.”
This is clear enough, although Mytongate and its lanes have now disappeared under Clive Sullivan Way.
“All Londoners and other persons whatsoever (as well Burgesses as strangers) resorting to the said fare with mercer or grocerie, all gouldsmithes, haberdashers, silkwomen, and such like during the said fare shall stand in the Highe streete from the Northgate to the Chappall laine end and no further towardes the Sowth.”
Once again this is perfectly clear. Chapel lane and High street are still where they were. The difference is that Alfred Gelder street has cut through High street, and so its northern end is now disconnected from the rest of the old town.
“All founderers, pewterers, shoemakers, pedlers, linen drapers, sellers of wodden ware, glovers, hardware men and other such like trades men shall have and make their standing during the said fare in the Salthouse laine.”
Salthouse Lane still exists, but because it is on the north or wrong side of Alfred Gelder street, it is largely neglected. If you navigate Hull by pub, it is behind the New White Hart.
“Theare shalbe also houlden during all the time of the said fare every daie from daie to day and from howre to howre A Court of Pipowders according to the custome and manner of the said Court and Thomas Richardson the Towne Clerke to be steward thearof.”
When attracting outsiders to a fair, it was important to offer the speediest settlement of any dispute, and a Piepowders Court was how this was usually done. The name is from early French meaning dusty feet, as it was a court for travellers.
Thomas Richardson was newly appointed as Town Clerk, with a stipend of £10 and a gown every year and his food at the mayor’s table. This would be in addition to “taking and receiving all maner of fees dewes Costomes and rightes to the said offices belonging or appertaining wether the sayme accrew to the said place by the Lawes and statutes of this Realme wether by auncient Custome or former prescription” which would include fees as steward of the piepoudres. Justice was to be swift, but it wouldn’t have been free. Richardson was originally from “Gowle.” This is surprising, as Goole is thought at this time to have been a collection of mud huts, but apparently it produced a lawyer.
J. R. Boyle, Transcribed and Translated, Charters and Letters Patent granted to Kingston upon Hull, Hull, 1905. Charter of 40 Eliz, 21 August 1598
KHRO Bench Book 4 (alias Hull History Centre C BRB/2) f.331 for Richardson and f.333 for the fair.
Google Maps and Hollar’s plan of Hull of c.1640