St James’s Fair wasan annual fortnight of excitement, adventure and entertainment for the people of Bristol. Held around St James’s churchyard, it attracted traders and shows from all over, including wild beasts, waxworks, flying coaches and even ‘a learned pig’.
The Bristol Mirror reported on Saturday 6 April 1823 that, ‘There is scarcely an exotic in
nature that may not be seen there’, but also that, ‘the light fingered tribe are as usual, very active’.
Pick-pocketing, along with reported swearing, drunkenness and debauchery, meant critics saw the Fair as a hive of corruption and temptation.
Deemed a bad influence on Bristol’s populace, and with trade declining, the Fair ended for good in 1838