About this artwork

This watercolour shows a bustling fair in the small village of Oldhamstocks in East Lothian. The fair takes place at the Mercat (or Market) Cross, both the commercial heart of the village and symbol of its right to trade. Carse's picture dated 1796 is an important record of a Scottish country fair, as these were becoming increasingly rare. The late eighteenth century saw the disappearance of many rural customs and was a time of great social change in Scotland. Fairs and markets had traditionally been an integral part of the rural economy, fulfilling multiple functions as food, clothing and livestock markets, and as a hiring ground for farm servants. Carse takes great delight in depicting all the local characters, and shows that fairs were also a great opportunity for social gatherings.

Alexander Carse

Alexander Carse