The origins of the fair related to St Giles' Church at the north end of St Giles'. This was originally completed in 1120, but the church was not actually consecrated until 1200, by St Hugh of Lincoln, a Cartesian monk and bishop. As part of the commemoration of the consecration, St Giles' Fair was established.
The medieval fair was held in nearby Walton Manor,then outside the city walls... where it took place in the St Giles' churchyard on St Giles Day and during the following week.
Queen Elizabeth I stayed in Oxford between 3–10 September 1567 and watched the fair from the windows of St John's College.
Traditionally, anyone with a beer shop was allowed to bring barrels of beer to St Giles' Fair for sale. Another custom was that any householder in St Giles itself could sell beer and spirits during the fair by hanging the bough of a tree over their front door.
The fair evolved from the St Giles' parish wake, first recorded in 1624, and which became known as St Giles' Feast. In the 1780's, it was a toy fair, with cheap items for sale. By 1800, it had become a more general fair with stalls and rides. From the 1830's, the fair included adult amusements and it became more rowdy, so much so that there were calls for it to be closed.
It is about the biggest fair in England. The whole of St Giles' and even Magdalen Street by Elliston and Cavell's right up to and beyond the War Memorial, at the meeting of the Woodstock and Banbury roads, is thick with freak shows, roundabouts, cake-walks, the whip, and the witching waves
So Tonight, ( Monday) as it was a warm calm evening out, myself and a few pals took to the throng, via the Eagle and Child, and threw ourselves on the heady delights of letting our inner child out, without any of the beer coming up too. What strikes you as incredible is how they cram this much equipment into such a limited space, with the higher and more spidery of the rides flailing us literally within inches of the Plane Trees and the ancient buildings and windows of the surrounding colleges.