The 2017 Barnstaple Fair Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, 13th September 2017
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 2016
The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2016 was held on Wednesday, 14th September in the Barnstaple Guildhall’s main chamber.
Late summer sun and plenty of ceremonial colour accompanied the opening of Barnstaple Fair 2016 Wednesday [14 Sept].
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. The ceremony, attended by over 200 guests, was marked by speeches by Cllr Mrs Julie Hunt (Town Mayor), Lawrence Appleton (Showmen’s Guild), Seth Conway (ITV West Country News reporter), Hannah Harrington (Town Centre Manager), Diane Dimond (Principal, Petroc College), and Tim Gilbert (Pastor, Grosvenor Church). 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’.
The historic proclamation of the Fair was made by Town Clerk Will Austin at the end of the ceremony, and three times during the procession which followed, watched by hundreds lining the streets.
Giles Chichester, son of Sir Francis Chichester, addressed guests at a civic reception at Barnstaple Hotel, and the party then moved to Seven Brethren Bank to open and tour the funfair.
Town Mayor Cllr Mrs Julie Hunt Mayor 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.”
2016 marks the 50th year since the Fair moved to Seven Brethren from its former home on North Walk, and on Saturday the Barnstaple Fair Carnival celebrates its 85th anniversary, and its 70th consecutive year. Over the summer, events highlighting the rich history of the Fair and Carnival have included an exhibition at the Museum, a new book by Martin Burridge, a performance of the Barnstaple Fair song at the Queen’s Theatre, a Carnival Queen reunion, a vintage fairground, and a road run of vintage traction engines.
Town Clerk Will Austin said “I want to congratulate the Barnstaple Fair Heritage Society on their work this year bring the history of Barnstaple Fair to the local community with a string of wonderful events and activities. With the current Fair site being looked at for redevelopment, the Town Council is keen to see the whole town engaged in finding the right alternative venue if one is needed, and the events this summer have certainly helped in that respect.”
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 Mrs Julie Hunt.
The Town Council is grateful to the Showmen’s Guild for their generosity and time in staging this event.