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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

May, 2004
The 800th Rowell Fair: history
A waltzer arrives at the fair in 1967
A ride arrives at the fair in 1967. Photo: David Springthorpe
This year is the 800th anniversary of the granting of the Rowell Charter by King John.

We look at the history of the Rowell Fair.

More on the Rowell Fair

Rothwell in 360 degrees

Rowell Fair Society

Circus Transport Archive

Rothwell Town

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John, by the grace of God King, be it known that we have granted, and by this our present charter do confirm to our beloved and faithful Richard - Earl of Clare and his heirs that they may have their market of Rowell on Monday, with all the liberties and free customs to that market belonging as it was formerly [held] on Sunday, so that nevertheless it be not the hurt of neighbouring markets. Besides which we grant and by this our charter we have confirmed to the same Earl Richard and his heirs, that they may have yearly, a fair at Rowell at the feast of the Holy Trinity for and during the five days, that is to say on the eve of the Holy Trinity and on that day and on three following days, so nevertheless that such fair will not be to the hurt of neighbouring fairs. Wherefore we will and firmly declare that the aforesaid Earl Richard and his heirs may and hold the aforesaid market and the aforesaid fair of us and our heirs in perpetuity well and in peace, freely and quietly, rightly, fully and with honour, with all the liberties and free customs as aforesaid.
• Witness the Lord H. Archbishop of Canterbury, J Norwich and W. London Bishops etc.
• Given at Westminster the 26th day of January, in the fifth year [of our reign].


Send us your comments about the Rowell Fair using the form at the foot of this page.

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From feast day to fun fair

The origins of the Rowell Fair go back further than 1204 when King John granted the Rowell Charter.

In medieval England, there wasn't much difference between markets and fairs. They were both occasions to trade. People would travel from far and wide to buy or sell goods and livestock. Fairs and markets were also a good occasion for a knees-up. They were a welcome change from the hard toil in the fields or the workshops. And what better occasion to meet new people, make new friends, renew acquaintances or indulge in a bit of gossip?

Feast day

The fair in Rothwell takes place near Holy Trinity Church and is traditionally held for five days around the feast of Holy Trinity. There's evidence of a market taking place in the town as long ago as 1154.

By the start of the 13th Century, the Rowell Fair was an important date in the calendar. In 1204, the Lord of the Manor, Richard Earl of Clare (he was related to William the Conqueror), had the fair officially confirmed by getting King John to grant a charter.

In 1614, the William Cockayne became Lord of the Manor and his family still own the rights.

Fun fair

The fair in 1996
The fair in 1996. Photo: David Springthorpe

The fair evolved over the centuries. From the 17th Century until the early 20th Century, it was a well-known place to buy or sell horses.

Gradually entertainment replaced trade. In the 19th Century, steam-driven fun fair rides appeared.

In the 1960s, the fair was in danger of dying out. In 1968, the Charter Fair Society was established. The Society organises the fair each year.

Today, the Rowell Fair lasts a week and is essentially a fun fair. But its historical links are remembered by the Charter Proclamation which starts early on Rowell Fair Monday.

More on the Charter Proclamation »

Have your say

Send us your comments about the Rowell Fair. Please use the form below to send us your comments.

Teresa Lightfoot
I was born and bred in Rowell... My dad was a pole bearer, my ex was and my ex brother in law... keep up the tradition! I live in Spain now but do miss these old traditions...

Kevin Bryan
My Grandmother Phylis Bryan (Ward) and my Father Jacj Bryan are from Rothwell,(Moved to America in 1946) and told me of the fair since I was a child. My Father and I went back in 2002 and I had a chance of a lifetime to experiance the amazing fair they spoke of. What a wonderful time, visiting realtives and the town. Keep it going! Such a great piece of heritage.

suznne asbrey ...x
I think te fair should not be taken away from us its something all the youngsters look forward to each year and it wouldnt be fair to take it away from them.the fair this year 2008 was really good and had new rides which was good please keep the fair going and leave it where it is x

Robert Rowell
I am a 64 year old resident of the USA. I have always thought my ancestors came from Wales. When I happened across this site, it gave me pause to reconsider that thought. I am the oldest survivor of our family. If anyone has information that might enlighten me and has the time and interest to share such information I would be very appreciative.Thank you,Robert Rowell

the fair means alot to the people in rothwell ecpecially the proc and you see so many faces that come out of the wood but its a good day and a good week lets hope its here for many more year

john rowell
can anybody help me with information regarding my family tree. my name is john a rowell. thanks

john rowell
sounds great. i must have relatives there as i was raised by foster parents in the states

I live on the market square so my house is surrounded by rides and cant get to work very easily but Rowell fair was a right laugh...especially the monday morning drinking session... keep it goin!

clifford fox
Just got home after visiting Rowell for the opening of the fair for the 803rd year. Yet another great day meeting old friends and even older family. the time now is 7pm my day started at 3am when i got up travelled about 100 miles to arrive in Rowell at 5.30am. Been living in Mablethorpe now for the past 18 years but would never dream of missing the opening of the fair.

Lou and Mike
We've moved to Rothwell recently and love the fact that the town has something so old and special to celebrate. Getting up early tomorrow morning to see the 2007 Procolomation, then shooting off to work! Our mate from Brum are quite envious that we are in a town which has lots of history around it.

suzanne asbrey
i think that the fair should stay its a tradition that we all luk forward tu every year when it come.all kids love it.all the other people want it tu go but its ok for them to say now but if they was us theyll say the same.

nicole x
rowell fair is a part of rothwell that has been going on for 800 years and everyone is always looking forward to it every year. it would be a shame to lose the fair because it is a part of rothwell and the people of rowel . Its the best part of the year in rothwell for the kids and for people of all ages really and would be selfish to take that away from the historic town of rothwell .

all the gels from mcc x
jus wana say that the fair is the best week for every one in rothwell.we cant wait till it comes agen xqulityx 2006

mica chapman
rothwell fair brings so much fun to rothwell commity and it would be a shame to take it away.its a part of rothwells history and every one would be dissapionted if they stop it.

i think that it would be selfish to take the fair away for the kids because its the old people that dont want the fair but they foreget when it was here for them and how much they enjoyed it so why should that fun be taken away from are generation !!!

tayler chapman
rothwell fair is part of our heritage and i think it would be very dissapionting for the hole community to see a historical event thats been going on for 800 years to be saddened to see it disappear into the is a tradition to the people of rothwell and i think it would be very selfish to take it away. it brings a lot of trade fun to rothwell theres no where to really go for the younger people of rothwell to go and every one looks forward to it.

rowell gels born n bred
we just want to say that rowell fairs wicked best day of the year pure madness!!!!

mike rowell of burgess hill, sussex.
800 years! well done. Keep it up for the next 800years!

Sue Johnson - Secretary 2004 Rowell Fair Steering
What a great weekend!A huge thank you to everyone who turned out to support the 800th Rowell Fair celebrations. Fantastic atmosphere matched the fantastic weather!Grateful thanks to the many who helped to plan, organise,implement and take part in all the various activities. Here's to the next 100 and more!Enjoy the fun fair for the rest of the week and if you are there at 7.30pm Saturday come and see the celebratory 800 cake being cut!

Although I have not been to all 800 procs, I have attended quite a few from the 60's upto this years. Rowell people are proud of this tradition, and rightly so. I wonder how many noticed the dramatic cut in police numbers this year? With only a hanfull to watch proceedings things still went smoothly. The cerimonial halberds were unharmed following Mr. Dentons request that they be unmolested. WELL DONE ROWELL!

Its a great bit of fun that brings the community together and in this day and age people need to mix more like this i say

Jan & Dave Robinson
Just wanted to say Hi and wish everyone back in Rothwell all the best from us in Australia. We'll have a rum and milk and be thinking of you on Monday. Ask Tim the Vic, he'll remember us.

pete bell
the fair means so much to the people of rowell,it really is unique,a step back in time,this year is the 800th and promises to be special,heres hoping.


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