Named after the district where summer celebrations were held in the 17th and 18thCenturies on Brook Field (written as Great Brooke field in 1650) beside the River Tyburn, when the area was still open land and used as a goods and cattle market. The field later gave its name to nearby Brook Street. The first May Fair, recorded as taking place on May 1st, 1686, lasted for 15 days and almost immediately garnered a reputation for bad behaviour, being variously described as a “riotous and tumultuous assembly” and “a public nuisance and inconvenience”. One resident in nearby Piccadilly was moved to write during the reign of Queen Anne: “Can any rational man imagine that Her Majesty would permit so much lewdness as is committed at May Fair, for so many days together, so near to her royal palace, if she knew anything of the matter.” The annual event was eventually closed down in 1709, probably because building work had begun five years earlier. Indeed, Tatler reported: “May Fair is utterly abolished, and we hear that Mr Pinkethman has removed his ingenious company of strollers to Greenwich.” It was revived for a short while and continued until the 1750s when Brook Field was developed.
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