Midsummer Common is an area of common land with common rights dating from the 12th century. The area of common land is still used for the grazing of cattle and other beasts and as a site for fairs and public entertainment.
An application for 17 houses with gardens was proposed on the common in 1870, reducing the area by 1.2 hectares. This was rejected by the Council.
While not used for fairs and other events the land was grazed. During a period after the Second World War the common ceased to be grazed, but during the mid 1990s the cattle returned. They are removed when the common is used for Midsummer Fair, Strawberry Fair, circuses, funfairs and the annual fireworks display.
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Following the re-siting of Barnwell Priory away from the castle to common land to the north-east of the town, Midsummer Common was named after the fair that had been granted by King John to the Priory in 1211. Together with Butts Green (the area to the south along Maids Causeway) they had been commons since at least 1189, and combined With Jesus Green they were also known as Greencroft.
In 1232 Henry III granted that the Fair could be held over four days from 22nd-25th June. This meant that proceeds became an important source of income for the Priory. The Barnwell Chroniclers recorded that 'boys and lads met to amuse themselves in the English fashion by wrestling matches and other games'. In 1235 the town burgesses came to an agreement that the Priory would pay for any damage caused by the fair, and by 1506 the organisation of the fair was taken over completely by the burgesses. Goods for the fair were shipped along the River Cam until the middle of the 19th century.
In 1714 the fair included a Punch and Judy, a giant, a dwarf, wild beasts, dancing dogs, three-legged cats and a female rope dancer, and by the late 18th century it was extended to a fortnight each year and became more profitable to the town than Stourbridge Fair. Between 1810 and 1812 the site of Barnwell Priory was completely levelled and in 1821 permission was given to build a footpath along the edge of the common on the site of Brunswick Walk.
In Victorian and Edwardian period there were 'Mammoth Shows' on August Bank holidays with balloon ascents and parachute descents performed by the Spencer family. A Rustic Sports day was held in 1838 to mark Queen Victoria's Coronation and more sporting events were held for the Jubilee in 1887.
In 1945 Midsummer Common was the site for Victory in Europe celebrations.
- Medieval (1066-1540)
- 12th Century
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