From earliest times Dumfries has had the power to hold weekly markets, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. The Friday market has long since fallen into disuse. The town also had the power to hold three annual fairs - one at the beginning of February, one at the beginning of July, and the Rood Fair on the last Wednesday in September. The February fair has transferred to March and the July fair is no longer held. Only the date of September's Rood Fair remains unaltered.
Fairs in mediaeval times had a much greater importance for townsfolk than now. On these days all the restrictive trading practices of the burgh were relaxed. Merchants brought in luxury goods from abroad, travelling merchants called 'dusty feet' were allowed to set up stalls in the street. Acrobats, jugglers, minstrels and men with performing bears came to add to the fun and the noise. It was the highlight of the year. Buying and selling horses on the Whitesands was always the biggest part of the Rood Fair, although cattle, agricultural produce, and merchandise were also bought and sold.
In the 19th century the High Street and Buccleuch Street were full of stalls selling crystal and china. Newspaper reports of the town say that it was so busy that it was literally impossible to move. In time the fair modified slightly and became a hiring fair where domestic and farm servants would seek new positions. This aspect only died away after the First World War. Nowadays the Rood Fair is only a shadow of its former self.
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