Worcester Victorian Christmas Fayre
For me, Christmas usually begins on the last Thursday in November. This is normally the day the Victorian Christmas Fayre, which is held in the beautiful city of Worcester, kicks off.
The stalls are set up during the day on Thursday ready for the evening, and as soon as the daylight fades from the sky, Christmas comes to town for the next three days and nights. The fayre lasts until the Sunday, but the best day to visit is on Friday because it’s not quite as busy as Saturday, when coachload after coachload of people descend on the city from as far away as West Wales and Liverpool. Sunday is slightly quieter, but there is a chance many stallholders will have sold out of their most popular items!
Let me tell you a little about Worcester first, before I share the delights of the fayre with you. It’s a smallish city, famed for its magnificent cathedral and wonderful porcelain. It sits on the banks of the River Severn, surrounded by chocolate-box-pretty villages and with the knobbled spine of the Malvern Hills in the distance.
It’s lovely to visit at any time of the year but at Christmas it really comes alive!
The fayre proper is centred around the oldest street, Friar Street, with its medieval buildings and cobbled road. The fayre stretches from one end to the other, with the streets leading off it also taking part, and the last couple of years have seen the stalls expand into the adjacent High Street and beyond.
I always start my exploration of the fayre at its most magical point – the place where the old-fashioned merry-go-round sits. I don’t care how old I get, I still want to ride on one of those brightly coloured horses, but the problem is, which one? They are all gorgeous, and the child in me sits up and starts clapping excitedly when the music cranks up and the horses turn majestically, slowly at first then faster and faster until the squeals of the children almost drown out the hurdy-gurdy music.
The rest of the fair is just as much fun, with its helter-skelter and big wheel, both of them old-fashioned-looking, as if they could have been designed a couple of centuries ago. For the more intrepid, there are other rides, usually the kind that swing you upside down repeatedly, until you beg to get off. And of course, there are the dodgems and the typical fair-ground stalls (I never do win anything – ever!).
But the fair is only a small part of the fayre. The majority of is a tribute to all things Christmas. Most of the stalls sell handmade crafts and simply gorgeous items that you’d have trouble finding anywhere else. My advice would be, if you’re planning on coming to the fayre, don’t buy any Christmas presents until you’ve arrived, because you’re guaranteed to find something you’ve simply got to have. Of course, the problem is you’ll want to keep it for yourself and not gift it to your nearest and dearest! Carved wooden bowls and spoons on one stall, blown glass ornaments on another, intricately-wrought silver jewellery on a third… the list goes on. And each stall is displayed in all its Christmas glory with the stallholders decked out in Victorian costume.
Oh, and I’ve got to tell you about the food stalls! These can be roughly split into two kinds – ones where you can buy food or drink to eat on the hoof, like roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate with Bailey’s Irish Cream Liqueur in it (oh, so scrummy), pulled pork rolls with apple sauce and stuffing, flavoured cider, Christmas-themed cocktails, mince pies, savoury pies, minted lamb burgers, hog roast, home-made fudge, and so much more. And I mustn’t forget to mention the mulled wine, too (my favourite!). Then there are the stalls selling cheeses, jams, chutney, specialist vinegars, Christmas cakes, Christmas puddings, shortbread, ales with odd names like Stinking Bishop, olives, baklava…
This year, I counted over 150 stalls, and that’s without the gorgeous artisan shops and the vast array of restaurants and cafes which the city boasts. The whole place is alive with mouth-watering smells, glittering lights, Christmas carols, the Salvation Army brass band, street magicians, stilt-walkers, jugglers, and overlaying it all are the beautiful bells of Worcester Cathedral reminding us of what Christmas is really about.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s fayre!