On Saturday the 31st of October 2015 I took a journey to Nottingham to attend the second Martinmas Fair in the grounds of the Priory Church of Saint Anthony of Lenton. The event was organised as part of the Lenton Living History Day, first held in twelfth century the Martinmas Fair was revived in 2014.
Lenton was once a separate village that was absorbed into the city borough of Nottingham only in Victorian times. Long before that however, Lenton was a significant religious estate, with a Cluniac Priory of the Benedictine Order. The Priory was before the reformation, one of a large number of Benedictine Houses (Abbeys and Priories), across the Midlands and an important landowner.
Martinmas falls today on the eleventh of November and before the reformation (and the later 1752 calendar changes), was an important agricultural and church festival. It was therefore appropriate that a modern community event, taking its name from a festival of medieval origin, should be held in the grounds of what was once, one of the most important local religious houses.
Spread across the grounds of the church and the adjoining council land, were a number stalls and displays, many provided by local and some not so local organisations. These included presentations of medieval combat provided by Team Falchion and English Combat, a falconry display from Hawks of Steel and static displays from York Archaeology, the Lenton Local History, an Apothecary, a woodcutter a spinner. A fire display was provided by Fields of Fire, Anglo-Saxon history was represented by Da Engliscan Gesidas (the English Companions), while dancing and music was provided by Peasant’s Revolt and the Nottingham Waites. There were several local charities represented, amongst these and perhaps most importantly, the local food bank charity Himmah. A sad reflection upon our modern society that such a charity should even be necessary.
An assortment of VIP guests passed through during the day, including Ashley Mortimer a trustee of the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation, the present Sheriff of Nottingham Councillor Mohammed Saghir, Tim Pollard and Sally Chappell; the Robin Hood and Maid Marion of Nottingham Castle.
The only negative point and indeed the only negative comments I heard during the entire day, were regarding two overtly Pagan stalls being asked by a representative of the church, to move off church land to the adjoining council land. Since many of those attending based upon the jewellery and choice of costume worn, were Pagan. Plus taking into account that many of these present were involved in the Nottingham Interfaith Initiative, this was something of a PR own goal.
Indeed, although primarily based around local history, this was a community event with a very strong multicultural element. The diversity of Nottingham was well represented by the attendees, the stalls and the food available for purchase.
I spent a rather pleasant afternoon wandering amongst the crowd, admiring the stalls, watching the displays, shopping at the numerous business stalls present and chatting to the historical experts available. I particularly enjoyed the medieval music provided both in the grounds and in the church itself.
I found the day educational and a pleasure to attend. I sincerely hope that this revived fair, with such a wonderful historical pedigree, will continue for many more years to come.