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Norfolk Fair Buttons


(or Spice Buttons, Tombland Fair Buttons)

Pastry of white flour, brown sugar, lard, soda and syrup, flavoured with ginger or lemon, rolled and cut into c2ins rounds, baked.

Norfolk Fair Buttons
Image: Alex Bray...

A specialty of the Norwich 'Tombland' Fair. 'Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review'. Volume 7, 1896 reports that: "Tombland is an open space, bounded by very old houses, just outside the Cathedral Close at Norwich. It is said that 'years ago ' this space served as a market-place for the whole city. No market is held there now, but an annual fair is held at Easter, and at this fair certain biscuits are made called 'Fair buttons.' They are made at no other time, and the specimens now exhibited were obtained for me from this Easter fair by Mr. Ernest Iving, of Chelsea, who gave me the above information."

Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 22 March 1823

Our correspondent Lilian Webster reports that; "Fair buttons in my childhood were lemon flavour but some had a few currants, and were plain, sold in bakers At Easter my mother, born in 1898, had them as a child as did her mother they were the size of a rich tea biscuit and very thin and light. Only at Easter when the fair was in Norwich they could be bought at the fair." and Miranda Thewlis (March 2018) tells us that they "...are still made at the Norfolk Oven bakery, Hamilton Rd Great Yarmouth. I bought some this last week! Only available around the time of Yarmouth Fair - I think its the weekend after the Norwich Fair."

Craig Jamieson tells us (2022) that "the New Norfolk oven bakery of Hamilton Road, Gt Yarmouth, are (still) producing and selling these. I made the journey today, and it certainly was worth it."

The original source of this receipt isn't known. Can you help? editor@foodsofengland.co.uk

Norfolk Fair Buttons

8 oz. flour
4 oz. brown sugar
1/4 oz. ground ginger
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
2 oz. lard
4 oz. golden syrup

Set oven to 350F. Mix together the flour, sugar, ginger, bicarbonate of soda and rub in the lard until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the syrup and thoroughly mix together . Roll out thinly on a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 inch rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Judith Havens informs us (15 April 2015); "These biscuits were traditionally sold in the days leading up to Easter, during the time of the Easter Fair in Norwich. There were two flavours; ginger and lemon. The local bakeries used to sell them in packets of separate flavours and packets containing both flavours. Over time fewer and fewer bakeries have stocked them, and many such local businesses nowadays have never heard of them The only place I have found still making them is Kett's Hill Bakery Norwich"

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