MEDIEVAL PERIOD – Part one by Fiona Morrison
The fair at Goldsithney has a long and rather patchy history. It’s gone by a variety of names and may have taken place in a number of locations locally before settling on what is now Fore Street., possibly when the manor house was moved to the site of the Trevelyan Arms. The lord of the manor encouraged settlement on Fore Street at the end of the fourteenth century.
THE TALE OF TEN SHILLINGS
The first mention of our fair is from 1140 by which time it was obviously well established. It appears in the Cartulary of St Michaels Mount where the Earl of Cornwall authorises 10 shillings each year to be paid from ‘the feast of St James outside the Mount’ to the Priory on the Mount. In those days our fair was held at the end of July, the August date came about when the fair merged with the one at Sithney somewhat later.
There’s more to this 10 shillings than meets the eye. In 1140 the political situation was very edgy in England. Reginald, Earl of Cornwall had rebelled against the king, the usurper Stephen because he (Reginald) supported his half sister Matilda’s claim. But Reginald had jumped the gun (or should that be the long bow?) and Stephen replaced him with Alan the Black a substantial landholder in England and Count of Brittany to boot. Alan was an able man and as Cornwall and Brittany had done business time out of mind he was a shrewd choice, he and his staff would have understood the local language for instance.
With Matilda looking to take over in England and her husband almost ready to invade Normandy (Brittany’s neighbour) Alan gave the powerful Benedictine order on the Mount 10 shillings a year as a sweetener, because the Mount’s mother house was the influential monastery Mount St Michel in
Normandy. The fair that year would have been crawling with spies.
The lives of local people in the Middle Ages were informed by the sea. They were not cut off the way many inland communities were. These people lived within striking distance of two ports that handled international traffic during the sailing season. They would have heard languages other than the four in common use * and all the news, gossip, and politics. Pilgrims on their way to the Mount would have brought news from elsewhere too. Locals may not have been able to buy the exotic goods they saw at fairs and markets but they were aware of them.
* Cornish, English, French and Latin