The Tavistock Goose Fair

Today is a very special day in the stannary town of Tavistock.   In 1105, King Henry I granted the monks of Tavistock Abbey the right to hold a weekly market.  This was good news, as we know, markets mean trade, traffic and money. 

In 1116, a writ was issued granting Tavistock an annual three day fair to be held at Michelmas.  Market days were for conducting business.  Fairs were big business too, but more than that, they were for feasting and celebration. 

Tradition has it that all the country folk drove their flocks of geese into town to be sold at a special 'Goosey' market.  Many of the Abbey's tenants would pay their rents in geese.  Town folk would purchase a goose to be fattened up for Christmas. 

It was said that all the Inns in Tavistock would serve roast goose dinners but some less honest hostellers would really be serving rabbit dipped in goose fat.  Copious amounts of beer would be consumed, often resulting in brawls between the locals and the drunken sailors from Plymouth.   One landlord is said to  have removed the doors to his inn so that the rowdy offenders could be more easily ejected.  I dare say, the modern Tavistock Goose Fair is more civilised and less intoxicated.

There is even a song written about the Goosey Fair.  Some say it is centuries old, others say it was penned in the 1920's.   Why is today a special day in Tavistock you may ask.  Because today is Tavistock's Goose Fair* day!    

*There are only two historically established Goose Fairs in the U.K.  The other official Goose Fair is held in Nottingham. 


  1. I live 15 minutes from Tavistock (when not at uni)! I never knew that Goosey Fair had such a history - I just got excited in primary school when we got the day off and an excuse to go to a fairground. Thanks for the education!

    1. It's amazing to think that your fair has been an annual event since 1116! You are part of that great tradition and history. Let's hope the traditional Goose Fair continues for at least another thousand years.


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