Fun of the fair attracted trade
IN MARCH 1201, the Burgesses of Grimsby were granted a royal charter by King John that gave them permission to hold an annual 15-day Statute Fair that began every May 25 in the Market Place, writes Jeff Beedham.
This fair, as well as providing much needed entertainment for the local population, also enabled local businesses, farmers and the local gentry to recruit new employees who would wait patiently in the Market Place, usually holding the tools or wearing the clothes of their trade, in order to attract the attention of a potential employer.
This tradition of employment and entertainment continued up to the end of the 19th century.
In May 1886, the Grimsby News reported on the Statute Fair, noting that despite the weather being "boisterous and wet in the morning," thousands of people assembled in the Old Market Place, where various roundabouts, shooting galleries, swingboats, etc, had been erected and as usual Cleethorpes donkeys were in full supply, being looked after by the elder people as well as the youngsters".
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The Grimsby News also noted that'"The Hiring was the largest that had been known for the last seven years. Kitchen maids could be hired for £5 to £9 per annum and cooks £11 to £12 per annum.
Mrs Maslin, of Maslin's auctioneers, supervised the recruitment of servants at the nearby Masonic Hall.
As the 20th century dawned, the fairs started to be illuminated by electric lights, with power generated by showmen's steam engines driving generators.
Gradually, fairground rides changed over from being steam to electrically driven and the fairs gave people the first opportunity to see the new invention of cinematography demonstrated in a special marquee.
The last "Stattus" in Old Market Place was in 1921.
During the next few years the fair was held on South Parade Recreation Ground.
In the 1930s the Grimsby Statute Fair was held on the West Marsh, on the Cinder Track between the Grimsby & District Hospital and South Parade School.
It featured chair-planes, helter skelter, swingboats and a large roundabout. There were numerous sideshows, featuring boxing booths, dancers and fortune tellers, along with novelties, such as Bonzo the talking sealion and the 122-year-old-man.
The fair later moved to Hardy's Recreation Ground. In the 1950s, the fair was revived on full official scale after a few years of "token" events, the fair was held in a field close to the railway on Cromwell Road next to the new Cattle Market.
During the 1950s colourful posters advertising the coming fair were posted all over town.
I remember going there regularly and the delicious aroma of hot dogs with onions, mingled with that of toffee apples, brandy snap and candy floss. There were also many "freak shows" (now considered politically incorrect) featuring the semi-naked Snake Lady as well as Siamese twins.
There were new post-war attractions, such as the shiny chromed dodgem cars introduced to the UK by Billy Butlin in the 1930s and with sparks flying from their pick-up poles above. These and the caterpillar and waltzers were favoured by the local teenagers.
There was another popular attraction of a tall revolving cylinder about 12ft high with a single door at the side through which customers would pay and enter.
The door was closed and the cylinder would start revolving throwing the occupants against the wall, then the floor would slowly drop leaving the customers held firmly against the wall by the centrifugal force.
Some of the more daring would perform a handstand against the wall and be left pinned upside down when the floor dropped.
By the early 1970s, the fair had moved to the site of the old Hewitt's maltings building next to Freddie Frith's motorcycle showrooms in Victoria Street.