Bad King John goes to the Fair
7th April, 2015
King John visited Corbridge in 1201, apparently looking for gold thought to be buried in the Roman site near the village. He was not successful in finding any, however whilst he was there he granted a charter to allow the village people to hold a weekly market.
That the village has a market square and cross is easy to spot. The original cross was moved in 1807 and is now located next to the Vicar’s Pele next to St Andrew’s church.
Less well known is the Stagshaw Bank fair, which was located at a site south of the Roman Wall and north of Corbridge.
There is a famous picture (1882) by Ralph Hedley, now hanging in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle which depicts the Duke of Northumberland’s agent announcing the Fair. He is depicted placed next to the Corbridge market cross. The halberd and pike (or at least reproductions of these) shown in the painting are to be found in St Andrew’s church.
By the Middle Ages the Fair was well established as a market for iron work, such as horseshoes, nails, weaponry and armour, much of which headed north with the King’s armies.
Stagshaw Fair soon became a huge market for livestock and was the largest market in this part of the country. It attracted farmers from all over the North of England and South Scotland.
It was discontinued in 1927 after being in existence for several centuries.