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Goose Fair

You are in: Nottingham > Goose Fair > Goose Fair diaries


Goose Fair diaries

These days it's all about the latest rides but 100 years ago Goose Fair fans couldn't get enough of the weird sideshows.

Diary entry - Goose Fair 1892

"All down Long Row and all around the market were ice cream sellers, cocoa nut galleries, shooting galleries, various games of chance, toy fruit and sweet stalls, phonographs, trials of strength machines and the like.

"These phonographs were new things. Attached to a little centre machine were a number of tubs each having a little bulb at the end to fit into the ear. Then the proprietor placed a flat circular plate on the machine and made it to revolve by a handle. 

"I had a go at one where you held a cup-shaped thing to your ear but thought it to be a fraud. You could only hear a voice occasionally and then very indistinct. Still this may have been owing to the great noise around."

Race goes on to list the sideshow attractions that year:-

1. E H Bostocks Menagerie (Band outside and 2 ladies in short skirts)

2. ‘Mexy’ the shooting girl

3. French Aquarium. To get in these Aquariums you went up steps and were then on an open but roofed-in platform. In the middle was a tank containing performing sea lions.

4. Polly O’Gracious – the fat child

5. Walls. A fine company outside but the platform rather small. The ladies either in tights or short skirts, the gentlemen in armour, etc

6. Birch’s midgets, Major and Madame Mite

7. Parker’s Ghost Show

8. Day’s Menagerie

9. Performing birds and hares

10. A Fisheries exhibition

11. Fine Art Gallery [this may have been an exhibition of waxworks]

12 Swimming Exhibition

Goose Fair on Old Market Square c.1906

Goose Fair on Old Market Square c.1906

Diary entry - Goose Fair 1895

"The only novelty was ‘the tunnel’. This consisted of a line of rails laid in a circle on which ran a miniature engine drawing four plain wooden carriages.

"Half of the circle was covered in with painted canvas to represent a tunnel and through this the train went in its journey round the circle."

Diary entry - Thursday 1 October 1896

Wallace the Untamable Lion

"It was a fine bearded lion and the cage was entered by a man whom it was said to have attacked a week or two previously.

"He rushed the lion about the cage for a few minutes but did not make it do any tricks. This lion, too, was very savage when its ‘tamer’ got out of the cage. These exhibitions seem to be quite [un]necessary and they are very risky."

The ‘Transparent’ Count Orloff

"His head was of ordinary size and his face looked very intelligent, but he had a very small body, his arms were shrivelled up into an ugly shape, and his legs were tin ones, almost circular in fashion.

"The book I bought shows the shape of the arms and the legs, but does not give any likeness of the man’s face. In one part of the leg, the flesh is so transparent that we could see a stick pass between it and a strong light, but the transparency did not at all resemble the highly coloured pictures there have been about.

"The Count sat in a large chair and had an apron over his legs so that when we went in we could not tell that he was deformed in any way. The showman was a gentlemanly looking man and he turned the chair round by means of a pivot.

"The book pretends to give a history of the man’s life and states that he was born in Hungary but the huge number of medical and other references in America show I think that he is native of that republic."

The rides

In the Market place were the following roundabouts:

Galloping horses (2)

Rocking boats [sea on dry land]

Children’s roundabout

Switchback rocking horses (2)

Tunnel Railway

Switchback cars

Switching back-rocking pagodas (2)


Switchback cars or gondolas

Most of these roundabouts were lighted by electricity.

Goose Fair by Jon Rouston

Modern day Goose Fair. Picture by Jon Rouston


"There was one long line of stalls from the Wine Shop at Chapel Bar corner to Skinner and Rooks at Clumber Street. Many of these were nut and gingerbread stalls.

"On another line of stalls were chiefly to be found fried fish and potato, 'smoking hot peas', the refreshment stalls exhibited piles of loaves cut into slices or made into ham sandwiches with a row of cups on the front for tea and coffee drinkers."

Diary entry - Goose Fair 1898

"I went in most of the cinematograph shows and saw some really good pictures. Most of them showed a bull-fight – views of the real thing – and very savage did the bull show himself.

"Walls showed two coloured pictures – the first I have seen – and also a view of the Gladstone funeral procession.

"In one thing the Fair, I think, was remarkable this year – there was a tremendous amount of kissing on the roundabouts. And it was going on vigorously at an early hour of the evening too."

last updated: 28/09/2009 at 09:22
created: 24/09/2009

You are in: Nottingham > Goose Fair > Goose Fair diaries

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