St Giles’ Fair

Roundabout and Martyrs' Memorial

Since the nineteenth century, St Giles’ Fair has been held on the Monday and Tuesday following the first Sunday after St Giles’ Day (which is always on 1 September). This means that when 1 September is a Saturday, the fair is held at the earliest possible time (3 & 4 September); but when 1 September is a Sunday, the fair is held at the latest possible time (9 & 10 September).

The Fair in 2023 will take place on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 September.



Left: The martyrs look down on the roundabout in 2003


Below: View from a third-floor room of the Randolph Hotel of the Sunday service / blessing at the Galloping Horses in 2004

2004 Service

The Fair evolved from the St Giles’ parish wake of the early seventeenth century, which later became known as St Giles’ Feast.

In the 1780s it was a “toy” fair (selling miscellaneous cheap and useful wares), and by 1800 it had become a general fair to entertain children.

From the 1830s there were amusements for adults as well. By the end of the nineteenth century there were several proposals to close it, as it had become too rowdy and licentious.

In 1843 a groom rode a horse through the fair, but it became frightened by the noise and ran away through the crowd. Twenty people were knocked down: Mary Ann Margetts (wife of Philip Margetts, Master of the Bluecoat School in Oxford) died and others were severely hurt. From 1844, no horses were allowed through the fair after 12 noon.

In 1930 the city corporation (now the city council) took over the control of the fair.

The following are contemporary accounts of the Fair from 1838 to the present day:

Photographs of the fair in the 1980s

Video by Jonathan Hugh of St Giles’ Fair 2007

St Giles's Fair by TauntLooking north, with the tower of St Giles' Church in the distance behind the trees

St Giles Fair in Edwardian timesSt Giles’ Fair in Edwardian times, looking north

Panoramas of St Giles’ Fair 2003 on the “Virtual Tour of Oxford” site
(click on the green circles and move around the Fair with your cursor buttons)

Edwardian pictureSt Giles' Fair, looking north, with the Brooklyn Cake Walk on the right. The tall building with
the chimneys was demolished to make way for the Mathematical Institute

Edwardian pictureSt Giles’ Fair in Edwardian times, at the north end. St Giles’ Church is on the left, and Keble Road
on the right (behind the present No. 30, lower building with the double gables).
Click on above picture for a larger image

Taylor's Royal Electric Museum
Taylor's Royal Electric Coliseum, with a fish & chip van to the right

Colour postcard of the Fair

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home

1 September, 2023