The Charter
Many surviving English and Welsh Fairs have their origins in the medieval period. The growth of trade and commerce from around the year 1100 led to many localities being granted Charters.
A Charter is a written document delivered by the sovereign or legislature granting privileges to, or recognizing rights of, the people, or of certain classes or individuals. It is a document recording a grant. A royal charter is distinguished from other forms of royal instrument as it has a witness list and notifies specific groups of the royal act.
Both markets and fairs benefited from charters. They were both trading institutions held at regular intervals. In medieval England a market was held once a week, on a set day and in a set place whereas a fair was held annually, on a set date, normally associated with the feast of a particular saint. A fair might last only a single day or over a number of days, ranging from two or three days to a week or more. The fairs were held in a set place.
Hull Fair is one of the oldest Charter fairs still in existence. The town, then a possession of the Abbot of Meaux, was known as Wyke upon Hull when the first charter granting permission for a Fair to be held in was conferred on the 10th November 1279. King Edward I, who had taken possession of the town re-naming it Kingston upon Hull, granted a further charter on 1st July 1293 for a fair from the 26th May until 7th July. Finally on 1 Apr 1299, a Royal Charter granted the Burgesses of Kingston upon Hull a fair to be held after Easter (26 May), in a place appointed in the town.
This fair continued until 1598 when a new Royal Charter gave permission for a fair to be held during September. According to Kevin Scrivens and Stephen Smith in Hull Fair published in 1991; the changing of the calendar in 1751 led the locals to believe that the loss of eleven days affected their fair. Give us back our eleven days was the cry as the enraged mob charged around the streets of Hull calling for the return of their eleven day festivities, which they believed to have been lost due to the calendar change. The outraged masses got their wish and from that year onwards October 11th became the official date for Hull Fair.