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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

May, 2004
The 800th Rowell Fair: the bailiff
Robert Denton in Rothwell Robert Denton kicks off the Rowell Fair by embarking on an elaborate pub crawl at six o'clock in the morning.

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A pub crawl by horseback

It's an early start on Rowell Fair Monday (the day after Trinity Sunday) for this retired Primary School headteacher.

Robert Denton and his followers gather in Rothwell soon after 5.00am for their pre-breakfast pub crawl.

Robert, in full morning suit, mounts a shire horse and proceeds to the nearest pub. A brass band leads the way and he's surrounded by a bodyguard of halberdiers.

"Would you believe it," says Robert, "that years ago the bailiff was the official beer taster for the Lord of the Manor".

Binge drinking

A former bailiff at the proclamation
A former bailiff rides to the next pub

But the bailiff's tipple on Rowell Fair Monday is an equal measure of milk and rum - repeated at every pub in the town, and also at the site of every former pub.

"Then, after we've had breakfast, we go round again to say thank you to all the pubs, so by the time I finish, I reckon I've had between 20 and 30 rum and milks" is Robert's boast.

"You'd hardly believe it, but I reckon I drink myself through it. Whether it's the milk that emulsifies the rum, I don't know, but I feel fine until I go home, which is usually about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I then zonk out until the evening."

And there's no danger of falling off the horse: "It's about four feet across - you'd have a job to fall off it really!"

Tax collector

Robert Denton
Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor, Robert Denton

Robert was appointed bailiff by the Lord of the Manor. The current Lord is actually a woman from the nearby village of Thorpe Malsor called Zandra Powell. The manorial title has been in her family for nearly 400 years.

"Originally the bailiff would have gone round and collected the taxes for the Lord of the Manor," explains Robert. "And to some extent, I do the same because I organise the fair then later on in the week I go around and collect the rents from them and pass on the rents to the Lord of the Manor." The profits are normally donated to charity.

To Robert, the 800-year-old fair is important to local people: "It gives the town a great sense of citizenship. There's very much a civic pride in Rothwell.

"If the fair has been going for this long, I think we're duty bound to push it towards 1,000."

Audio availableListen to an interview with Robert Denton
(Realplayer 56k, 4'30")

Also see:
• Have your say on the Rowell Fair
• More Northamptonshire people & places

 


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