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Mayfair

Q From Anne Fairbrother: Does Mayfair, the area in London, just mean a place where a fair was held on May 1st?

A The area in London with that name is indeed so called because it used to be the site of a very big May fair, held each year from the first of May for 15 days. It was suppressed in 1764 because it had become too rowdy, and the rich residents of the houses that had by then begun to be built in the area didn’t like the noise. There were many fairs held in Britain at the beginning of May, in part a perpetuation of the ancient celebration of Beltane, but mainly because it was a good time of year for farmers to meet and trade.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 28 Nov. 1998

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-may1.htm
Last modified: 28 November 1998.