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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

May, 2004
The 800th Rowell Fair: proclamation
The proclamation
Photo: David Springthorpe
It's the ultimate pub crawl: rum and milk at 6 o'clock in the morning - but that's how the Rowell Fair is officially opened.

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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].


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Rum and milk for breakfast

Forget the cutting of ribbons or the ringing of bells which traditionally open fairs across Britain. The Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor of Rothwell arguably has the best job of all.

He opens the Rowell Fair by going on an elaborate pub crawl - at six o'clock in the morning!

It all starts at the stroke of 6.00am on the first Monday after Holy Trinity (otherwise known as Rowell Fair Monday). The Proclamation Ceremony begins outside the West door to Holy Trinity Church.


The bailiff on horseback
The band leads the bailiff to the proclamation. Photo: David Springthorpe

The Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor, Robert Denton, reads the Charter (you can read it for yourself on the left of this page).

He's accompanied by a bodyguard of halberdiers and the Rowell Fair Society Band.

After each reading, he declares: "God save the Queen and the Lord of the Manor" and the National Anthem is played.

The pub landlords then hand out drinks to everyone. The bailff traditionally knocks back rum and milk and the halberdiers are given beers.


With the alcohol swilling about in everybody's bellies, it's then traditional for local youths to try to disarm the halberdiers. If this sounds to you like a typical Saturday night and you're wondering what the police are doing, the organisers describe this merriment as 'good humoured horseplay' (remember that phrase for your next night out on the tiles).

The Bailiff and his entourage then proceed on horseback to all the pubs in the town - and the sites of pubs long-since closed - stopping at each to read the Charter, knock back the booze, engage in horseplay and so on. It can all take an hour.

That's what I call an opening ceremony. Are you surprised it's lasted 800 years?!

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


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