Friday, 5 October 2012

Geese, Lace and an industrial city

This weeks spotlight is on Nottingham and in particular the Nottingham Goose Fair which takes place annually in the first week of October.  It is one of the largest and oldest (first mentioned in 1541 but possibly even older) fairs in Europe.  No one knows where the fair got its name.  Legend has it that its name is derived from the thousands of of geese that were driven from Lincolnshire and Norfolk to be sold in Nottingham.  Imagine the logistics of driving 20,000 geese that kind of distance - imagine the mess!

Like most other fairs, the original purpose of Nottingham's Autumn fair was trade and for many years it enjoyed a reputation for, of all things, cheese!  During the nineteenth century the character of the fair changed considerably.  With the coming of the railways, transport became easier and people no longer had to stock up with goods in the autumn against the risk of isolation during the dark days of winter. Distribution and retailing also improved with shops stocking items all the year round which previously had only been available once a year from travelling merchants at fairs.

The painting below by Arthur Spooner shows the Goose Fair when it was held in the market square in the middle of the city.  Nowadays the Fair takes place in a much larger site on the outskirts of the city. The painting is on show at the Nottingham Castle gallery & museum.

'The Goose Fair' by Arthur Spooner, 1926 (The Goose Fair' is presently on long term loan to the Nottingham Castle gallery from the private collection of Sir Harry Djanogly © The Artists Estate. Photograph credit: BBC Nottingham.)

The Nottingham Castle gallery & museum also houses historic lace collections reflecting Nottingham's  industrial heritage. Whilst we do not hold examples of fine lace artistry like Nottingham Castle,  MoDA's collections of pamphlets and trade catalogues includes a wealth of  promotional and advertising material for the lace industry.  One example is this trade catalogue, Spring Curtains Illustrated 1909, which promotes curtains manufactured from Nottingham lace.

Spring Curtains Illustrated 1909, Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, BADDA1820.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, lace was Nottingham's dominant industry, employing over 40,000 people.  Nowadays there is just one lace factory remaining in the city, Fewkes, who played a small part in creating one of the most famous dresses of all time. Along with with local lace companies Roger Watson and Huntbachs, they created the lace for Princess Diana's wedding dress.
Princess Diana in her wedding dress

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