The 2019 Barnstaple Fair Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, 18th September 2019
HISTORY & BACKGROUND
The September Fair Proclamation Ceremony is the major civic event of the year in Barnstaple. Although its origins are lost in antiquity, they are said to be as old as the town itself.
The ancient Proclamation Ceremony takes place on the Wednesday preceding the 20th September in the Guildhall, where civic guests, dignitaries and invited members of the public are guests of the Mayor and the Town Council for this special occasion.
During the ceremony a large white glove, decorated with flowers and ribbons, is suspended over the street from the top window of the Guildhall. It symbolises the open hand of friendship to welcome those who wish to trade at the fair, and the many thousands attending it.
At noon a civic procession makes its way from the Guildhall. Outside a proclamation is read by the Town Clerk, and repeated again at the site of the old South Gate (by the Royal and Fortescue Hotel) and the old West Gate of the town (outside Queen Anne’s Walk).
In past times the Fair lasted for a week, or for as many days as the Mayor would allow! It would have included a Cattle & Sheep Fair and a Horse Fair, with the remaining days given over to the Pleasure Fair. Nowadays it runs for four days, Wednesday to Saturday, with the entire time devoted to the rides, stalls and amusements organised by the Showmen's Guild.
Visit Barnstaple in September and you can witness this ancient tradition, which now has a very modern twist!
The Town Clerk declares the Fair Open
BARNSTAPLE FAIR 2018
The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2018 was held on Wednesday, 19th September in the Barnstaple Guildhall’s main chamber.
Despite heavy showers, plenty of ceremonial sunshine and colour accompanied the opening of Barnstaple Fair 2018. The ancient traditions of the first day of the Fair were honoured with a Proclamation Ceremony at Barnstaple Guildhall followed by a civic procession around the town centre. Toasts were offered using ‘fair ale’, made from a secret recipe known only to ceremonial officials, and guests were treated to traditional sweets and other food offerings known as ‘fairings’.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Aldeiy Alderson accepted the honour of Freedom of the town granted to RMB Chivenor on behalf of the Commando Logistic Regiment at the traditional fair opening ceremony. The distinction was presented by Mayor Barnstaple Ian Roome at a fair luncheon held at the Barnstaple Hotel. It gives all ranks of the regiment the freedom to march through the streets of Barnstaple on all ceremonial occasions with bayonets fixed, colours flying, drums beating and bands playing.
The honour was granted in recognition of ‘the historical connections of the Commando Logistic Regiment, RMB Chivenor and the special relationship between the Commando Logistic Regiment, Barnstaple Town Council and its community’.
At the same luncheon, more than £4,500 was pledged to the fundraising campaign for a new cancer and wellbeing centre at North Devon District Hospital following an emotional appeal by terminally ill cancer nurse Laura Harris. Laura, 42 from Barnstaple, spoke about her own battle with cancer and said the new centre was ‘vital’ for patients in North Devon, prompting guests to dig deep and contribute to the hospital’s Over and Above appeal.
The Showmen’s Guild pledged an additional £1,000 to the £500 it had already presented to Laura with David Rowland of Rowlands Fun Fair. Mr Rowland also pledged an additional £1,000, while other £1,000 donations were made by Mark Parkhouse, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Devon, and Barnstaple transport boss Bill Hockin. The presentations followed Barnstaple’s ancient fair proclamation in the Guildhall, a first delivered by new town clerk Rob Ward.
Among those proposing toasts at this year’s event were Mark Parkhouse, North Devon councillor Joe Tucker, archaeological consultant Emily Wapshott and Keith Burley, managing director of Blue Elephant Childcare.
Town Mayor Cllr Mr Ian Roome said “Barnstaple Fair has its origins as far back as the 10th century, and it’s a real honour to lead the opening ceremony on behalf of Barnstaple Town Council. This year has been particularly enjoyable with a range of activities throughout the summer celebrating the history of the Fair and the Fair Carnival. I am pleased to offer my sincere thanks to all involved.”
Each year the funfair is set aside for a morning so that children and young adults with special needs can enjoy the rides.
The event proved as popular as ever this year with many children and adults with physical and learning disabilities attending the Special Fair.
The annual event is made possible by the Showmen’s Guild and organised by the Town Council.
All attending had the opportunity to experience the thrills of the rides of the fairground, all with assistance on hand. Candy Floss and a toy, as a memento of the day, were given out by the Mayor, Councillor Mr Ian Roome.
The Town Council is grateful to the Showmen’s Guild for their generosity and time in staging this event.