Fairfield Road, E3

Place Name

So-called because this was the site of the annual Whitsun Fair which was held in Bow from at least the early 17thCentury, the first reference coming in 1630. Even by this early stage the fair had a bawdy reputation, being known as the Green Goose fair, a play on words. For while roasted goose was probably available it was also a slang term for a woman of low morals. Waterman John Taylor, who called himself The Water Poet, wrote:

“At Bow, the Thursday after Pentecost,
There is a fair of green geese ready rost,
Where, as a goose is ever dog cheap there
The sauce is over somewhat sharp and deare.”

Quite possibly this is a reference to prostitution and the likelihood of catching a venereal disease. In 1694 the fair inspired another poet to pen The Three merry wives of Green-Goose Fair:

“The Fair is full of Feasting then,
from one end to the other,
And Maids are Treated by the Men,
who can’t their Passions smother:
Then they to Courting, and frequent Sporting,
with Kisses out of measure.”

And so it continued until the early-19thCentury when the local authorities had clearly had enough and they closed it down. Today a plaque on the street celebrating Bow’s Heritage says: “Site of the annual Whitsun Fair stopped in 1823 due to rowdyism and vice.”

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