Account of the local 'dandies' and their ladies strolling in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle.
The 'filly fair' described in the song was an opportunity for the youth of Newcastle to parade around in their finest clothes and meet members of the opposite sex. The song gives us a vivid description of the fine clothes worn at the 'filly fair, 'There was white gowns, silk spencers, and flounces galore'. By the beginning of the nineteenth century Pilgrim Street was no longer residential. The greater part of it had been converted into shops and inns making the street an ideal place for the youth of the day to converge, much like the Bigg Market of today.
Similar to the cheap press of today these poorly printed books and broadsides catered for popular tastes, being sold by chapmen in the country and booksellers in the town. Usually sold for no more than a penny, the production of these little books and broadsides were extremely profitable for most printers. Sold in bulk the material required little proof-reading, was widely plagiarised, and badly printed.
Newcastle was the second largest producer of chapbooks in the country at the time of this book's publication. 'The Newcastle Songster' was printed by J. Marshall, one of the most prominent chapbook printers in Newcastle during the early nineteenth century. This book forms part IV of the 'Songster' series and is perhaps easier to date than the preceding parts. Although it is not clear whether parts I and II of the 'Songster' were published before or after John Bell's 'Rhymes of the Northern Bards, 1812, the appearance of the 'Newcastle swineherds' proclamation' in part IV indicate the publication date to be no earlier than 1821.
The book contains some of the region's best known traditional songs. From 'Newcastle Noodles' to 'Famed Filly Fair', the book has offerings from well known Tyneside composers such as James Morrison and would have been extremely popular among the local population.