Ilkeston Charter Fair

Frequency Annual
Age 1252
Duration 4 days
Seasonal Yes
Fixture Temporary
Rate of Change slow to medium
Physical Scale Large
Experiential Scale Large
Geographical Scale Local

Ilkeston Charter Fair was first granted in 1252, and is held on the first Thursday after the first Sunday after the 11th of October. It has remained in its traditional setting, the market square, over the past seven centuries, and is a classic example of a vibrant, sprawling street fair, transforming the everyday environment of the town.

Along with fairs such as Oxford St. Giles and Loughborough, it is significant in that the central sites haven’t been lost, thanks in large part to a strong local sense of value, and of the historical links between town and fair.

From 1959, Ilkeston fair extended from South St. to Market Street & East St. During the 1970s, rides were located away from the Market Square in Pimlico and East Street Car Park. The fair sites now also include Queen Street and South Street Car Parks. It is hard to see how Ilkeston fair could grow any more within the town centre.

To minimize disruption to the town, the fair arrives as late as possible, and a rapid (overnight) transformation takes place. It packs up and leaves with the same amazing speed. Despite the speed of arrival and departure, there is a long and careful process of planning and organization that has to take account of many different kinds of control, and draw upon many different kinds of official powers and laws. All of this goes on behind the scenes, producing an ‘invisible’ architecture within which the temporary architecture of the fair is installed.

Timelapse film shot from the church tower of St. Mary, Ilkeston, overlooking the Market Place and Wharncliffe Road.

Text from the Ilkeston Charter, 1525
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