Fringe Box



Not One, But Two St Catherine’s Fairs Planned for 2012

Published on: 28 Mar, 2012
Updated on: 30 Mar, 2012

St Catherine's Fair in about 1822.

With just one exception a couple of decades ago, there hasn’t been a St Catherine’s Fair since the time of the First World War. Now it seems there are to be two separate events in 2012, but quite different in what they have to offer.

Since at least the 14th century fairs were held on the slopes of St Catherine’s Hill, on the south-west outskirts of Guildford, in the autumn, close to St Matthew’s Day. This year the Guildford Lions’ annual show on Easter Monday, in Shalford Park, is being re-named St Catherine’s Hill Fayre. The ruined St Catherine’s Chapel can be seen from the park.

Then, in September, another fair, currently being planned will take place on the hill itself. The organiser of this one is Guildford resident, Gerri Smyth. She said of her project: “Recreating the autumn fair on St Catherine’s Hill will be an opportunity to showcase all things local. Guildford has such a rich history, not only as a market town but as a centre of productivity in its own right.

“Revitalising the local economy, by encouraging and supporting local production and trade, is becoming increasingly important as large retail chains continue to go under. Renewing old skills, such as brewing, and celebrating the creative talents in our community will be key to the success of the fair and also the emergence of new 21st century ‘cottage industries’.”

Mike Girling, from Guildford Lions, said of their event: “Following the success of last year’s Easter event, we have decided to enlarge and enhance proceedings in 2012. Last year we attracted approximately 2,000 people and this year we confidently expect those numbers to increase for this prestigious event.

“This time we are creating a ‘Lions St Catherine’s Hill Fayre’. Such fayres were held annually during the 18th and 19th centuries in Guildford and were of huge historical significance to the town. We are attempting to recreate some of the excitement, variety and atmosphere, but with a 21st-century flavour.

“Our fayre will consist of a farmers’ market, fun dog show, Easter egg hunt, tug of war contest and classic cars, as well as a car boot fair and children’s entertainments.

“Proceeds from the fayre will be used by the Guildford Lions to support various local charities that include helping young people, the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as other local worthy causes.”

The Lions came up with the idea after a bit of a brain-storming session at which one member suggested an idea based on the former St Catherine’s fairs. Historian Matthew Alexander then gave the Lions a fascinating talk about the old fairs and the idea was agreed.

Gerri Smyth

Guildford Lions president Bill Blake said he did not realise that someone else was also organising a fair  this year with the same name. He said that he knew the fairs were traditionally in September, but the Lions fair is always at this end of the year. “You can’t move Easter,” he quipped!

Gerri Smyth added: “I was surprised to hear that after so many years without the fair there are now two projects under way, especially one named after St Catherine Hill’s but held at Shalford Park. The original fair was held on St Matthew’s Day, on September 21st, and I hope to hold my new event on the day after, to keep as close as possible to the tradition.

“Fr Andrew Norman, the Rector of St Nicolas’ Church, holds the royal charter for the fair on the hill, and he has given his agreement for a St Catherine’s Fair in the original location and season.”

Through Time story coming soon on this website all about the traditional fairs on St Catherine’s Hill.

Share This Post

Responses to Not One, But Two St Catherine’s Fairs Planned for 2012

  1. Mike Bennett

    March 30, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Its good to see that there will be an event on the Hill later this year.

    Is there room for another in this Jubilee year? I see that Britain is planning to be lit up on the evening of June 4th by thousands of beacons in prominent places.

    Could a local organisation set one up on the Hill?

  2. John Schluter

    March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm


    In the past, a Summer holiday weekend has normally resulted in a fire on St Catherine’s Hill! A more organised one in June is a good idea.