Cambridge St. Andrew the Less: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1750.
"BARNWELL, (Cambridgeshire) near Cambridge, where in the Normans time was an abbey, so called, says Camden, from the wells of children or beams, because they used to meet here for sport, on St. John's eve; so that it came at last to be, what is now called Midsummer Fair. This village was burnt down in the year 1731; but a more deplorable accident happened here 4 years before, viz. on the 8th of Sept. 1727, which many good families have sad cause to remember. A multitude of people being assembled in a barn to see a puppet shew, it was set on fire by a villain who was denied admittance; and the spectators crowding to the door, which was made fast, it was so long e're it was opened, and especially as it turned inwards, that the people tumbled over one another in getting out; and during this, the roof fell in, by which numbers were smothered; while the fire was burning many more: so that not above 5 or 6 escaped out of six-score men, women and children; among whom were several young gentlewomen of fortune, and many of the dead were so disfigured and mangled, that they could not be distinguished by their friends, who came next day to remove them for interment, and therefore they were promiscuously put into a large hole dug for the purpose in the Ch. yard."
"STURBRIDGE, (Cambridgeshire) has a Fair Sept. 8, for a fortnight, one of the most famous in Great-Britain, though 'tis of late somewhat lessened; 'tis kept near the little brook Sture, in a large corn-field, extending from the r. Cam towards the road for about half a m. square, bet. Chesterton and Cambridge, where the booths are placed in rows, like streets, by the names of which they are called, as Cheapside &c. and are filled with all sorts of trades, coffee-houses, taverns, eating-houses, musick-houses, &c. here being stage-players, whores, and a mixture of all sorts of people, so that it does not come up to Bury Fair for fine company, but much surpasses it for its prodigious traffick, in cattle, and other merchandize. Vast quantities of cheese are brought to it from Atherston Fair, and sold here for the supply of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Abundance of cloths, by the name of kerseys, cottons, penistons, and fustians, are brought to it from Yorkshire and Lancashire; all sorts of tapes, cadduces, and the like wares, from Manchester; variety of stuffs and crapes from Norwich, and great store of serges, duroys, druggets, &c. from Exeter, Taunton, Bristol, and other parts in the West, and some too from, London; so that the Duddery, an area of 80 or 100 yards square, in which the clothiers unload, resembles Blackwell-Hall; and in the woollen goods only, besides upholsterers and iron-mongers wares, here have been sold to the value of 100,000 l. in a week, to which, if there be added 50 or 60,000 l. generally laid out here, by the manufacturers of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex, in wool; besides the immense sum in hops, the price of which all over the Km. is generally settled at this Fair; and the large commissions for all sorts of commerce, which are negotiated here for all parts of England, it may be allowed one of the greatest Fairs in Europe. Yet 'tis so well regulated by the magistrates of Cambridge, who hold a court of justice here during the Fair, that there is no confusion nor disorder. After the wholesale business is over, the country gentry generally flock in, and lay out a great deal of money in toys, drolls, puppet-shews, rope-dancing, &c. and the whole concludes with a day for the sale of horses, and with horse and foot-races for the diversion of the commonality. Here are sometimes 50 hackney-coaches from London, which ply morning and night to and from Cambridge, where the bulk of the people lodge; nay, wherries have been actually brought hither from London on waggons, to row people up and down the r. Cam: For during this Fair, not only Cambridge, but all the Ts. round are full, nay the very barns and stables are turned into inns, for the accommodation of the meaner sort of people. 'Tis to be noted, that if the field where the Fair is held be not cleared of the corn by a certain day in August, the Fair-keepers may trample it underfoot, to set up their booths; and, on the other hand, if the Fair-keepers have not cleared this field by a certain day in September, the ploughmen may come with plough and cart and overthrow all into the dirt. As for the filth, dung, straw, &c. left behind, which is very considerable, 'tis so good manure as makes the farmer amends for the damage done to the ground. All heavy goods are brought hither by water-carriage from London, by way of Lynn in Norfolk, from whence they are carried in barges up the Ouse to the Cam, and so to the Fair. In like manner, such goods are sent to Lynn, and there shipped for the Humber and Tine. There is a very fair causey just by this place for about 4 m. leading to Gogmagog-Hills, which was begun by Dr. Harvey, master of Trinity-Hall, and finished by William Wortes, Esq; of Cambridge."