Landmark In Ovingham, Northumberland
An 11th century Saxon cross head that marks the focus for the start of the annual Goose Fair in Ovingham.
The Goose Fair Cross is an 11th century cross head set on a modern shaft and base, situated on a small area of green space above the River Tyne. The cross head which dates back to the Saxon period has become the focal point for the fair and is now known as "The Goose Fair Cross" which is slightly more catchy than its official listing of “ASCorpus ref: Ovingham 03”. The Goose Fair itself dates back to the 13th century.
During the 13th century the area of Ovingham was owned by the Umfraville family and had weekly market as well as an annual fair which was held on the 30th November (St Andrew's Day). By 1471 the Earls of Northumberland (before they became Dukes) were the new Lords of the Manor and they continued this tradition. Throughout this period Geese were regularly walked from Carlisle to the Newcastle and Gateshead area to be sold as part of a Goose Fair.
The tradition of the Goose Fair gradually died off and by the early 1800s the fair was principally for the sale of cattle and was often preceded by a procession of people “riding the bounds”. By 1939 this was reduced to people walking the bounds of the parish rather than riding. Participants would include the Duke of Northumberland's two pipers, agent, bailiff and constable who were joined by local householders and tenant farmers. Following the procession, rents would be collected and a dinner would be had courtesy of the Duke.
Geese were still sold as part of a small fair on the village green as late as 1840, and despite the advent of the railways, were still walked there from Carlisle. In 1969 an application by locals saw the reinstatement of The Goose Fair on Wellburn Fields. As the fair grew it was moved to the Village Green and Vicarage Haugh. The procession once again takes place on the 3rd Saturday in June but now travels from the Goose Fair Cross through the village to the green with Morris Dancers in place of the Duke's pipers. A proclamation is made as part of the fair and while the first two fairs used a specially composed one, the original is once again used after being found in the village records. Traditional Northumbrian Food is served in the form of “Singin' Hinnies”, “Carlins” and “Pan Haggerty”.
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Head out of the car park and across the footbridge over the River Tyne. The Goose Fair Cross is just at the end the footbridge up a short flight of steps.
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Parking is easiest at Prudhoe Station Car park just over the southern side of the River Tyne.
Contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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