Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Enfield, Middlesex Beggars Bush 1614

VCH Middlesex, (vol.v) says that The Beggar’s Bush fairs to be held on Ascension Day and St Giles’s Day were founded at Southgate in 1614, when the site formed part of Enfield Chase, but were held at at the top of Clay Hill in 1771, before being restored to Southgate. There ere earlier fairs dating back to a grant in 1303.

John Walker’s The Universal Gazetteer (London 1798) lists two Beggars Bushes, one the Godmanchester, Huntingdonshire site, the other described as being in Middlesex “ten miles from London” – which fits Enfield. It is possible that the Beggars Bush name from Godmanchester transferred to an earlier Bush Fair at Enfield.

Another source suggests that the original fair was “an ancient fair . . held since time immemorial” known only as “Bush Fair” held on part of Enfield Chase enclosed by King James into Theobalds Park. It says that the grant in 1614 to Robert Kidderminster compensated for that and relocated the fair, initially “near Cathol-gate, (leading to Northaw-common,) with liberty to build two houses for the accommodation of persons resorting to the fair. Petitions having been presented from the neighbouring inhabitants, and persons claiming right of common, against holding the fair on this spot, King James granted the said Robert Kidderminster a new patent the next year, for holding two fairs annually, on a certain part of the chase near South-gate (within the parish of Edmonton). These fairs, by the name of Beggar’s-bush fairs, are both still held, pursuant to the last patent, on St. Giles’s and Ascension-day. The patent was purchased at a public auction, anno 1771, by Mrs. Shuttleworth, who kept a fruit-shop opposite the Mansion-house. It is now the property of Mr. Pike.” (Daniel Lysons, ‘Edmonton’, The Environs of London: volume 2: County of Middlesex (1795), pp. 249-277).

Owen’s New Book of Fairs (1772) gives only one Beggar’s Bush fair on 12th September. In 1816 this was recorded as being poorly attended, but it continued to be held until 1912 at a field near the Crown off Chase Side.

G. A. Cooke’s  Topography of Great Britain or, British traveller’s pocket directory,  Vol VII Middlesex, London 1820 noted  two fairs known by the name of Beggar’s Bush fairs, and said that the one September 12 was noted for, horses and toys.

In the prosecution of Robert Beale on 25th October 1786 in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey he was apprehended trying to sell a horse at “Beggars-bush fair”, also described as “Beggar’s fair”. That is very likely to have been Enfield. Although the horse was stolen in Essex any thief would have tried to sell it at the most distant fair he could get too quickly, preferable one that was busy and where he would not be recognised. The theft was on 10th September (probably after dark) which would fit with the fair being in 12th, two days later. The defendant claimed to ahve bought the horse at “Harley Bush Fair”, but wasn’t believed. The case is remarkable for a letter written by the prosecutor to the prisoner in goal offering not to give evidence if his friends would pay for the horse and the recognisance the owner had entered as a witness. The Judge took a dim view of it!



Posted: April 10th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , | No Comments »

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