Ye Olde English Customes – Rowell Fair Proclamation

Alan Mills, Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor

Alan Mills, Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor

If you want quaint, weird, or just downright crazy customs, look no further than England. From Cheese Rolling to Worm Charming to Bog Snorkelling (okay, technically bog snorkelling is in Wales). And although I’m not a local, the town where I live has its own: The Proclamation.

I won’t go into the history of it all, other than to say in 1204, the Charter of King John confirmed the town now known as Rothwell (or Rowell, to locals) the right to host a market and fair. Yes, that’s right, a little over 800 years ago.

So, what’s the Proclamation? Well, basically it’s a pub crawl and organised street wrestling – that all kicks off at 6:00am!

Here’s how the Rowell Fair Society describe it:

The Proclamation Ceremony begins at the stroke of six o’clock in the morning outside the west door of the Church on the Monday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity (known locally as Rowell Fair Monday). After this reading, the Bailiff rides on horseback accompanied by a bodyguard of halberdiers and the Rowell Fair Society Band and the Charter is read at all the public houses, or sites of those now closed, in the town.

After each reading, a hearty cheer is given for “God save the Queen and the Lord of the Manor” and the National Anthem is played. The party is then presented with drinks from the landlords which include the traditional Rowell Fair rum and milk for the Bailiff, a drink designed to keep the early morning chill away, with beers for the halberdiers and the band.

After some good humoured horseplay, where the local youths try to disarm the halberdiers, the procession moves onto the next hostelry where the ceremony is repeated.

So here’s the Proclamation being read by Alan Mills, Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor.

That was outside the Blue Bell pub, so about the sixth reading (and sixth rum and milk). Oh, and the ‘good humoured horseplay’ that happens after each reading? Here it is:

The police actually just observe to make sure everything is good natured and doesn’t get out of hand. They also hang around all day, as the pubs, which all open at 6:00am, stay open until 11:00pm.

Hundreds of people get out of bed early to watch the ceremony (and join in if they’re feeling boisterous). Here are a few photos, the first two historic photos courtesy of the Rowell Fair Society, and the remaining from this year’s Proclamation.

Old 1

Vintage first Charter reading at 6:00am at Parish Church, West door.

Vintage horseplay!

Vintage horseplay!

5:45am. Ready for the off.

5:45am. Ready for the off.

Alan Mills, Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor

Alan Mills, Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor

Local dignatories

Local dignatories

Early risers!

Early risers!

Karl Sumpter

Karl Sumpter (right) making sure the Bailiff and the parade stop at the right places.

Rum and milk

Another rum and milk

And if you didn’t catch all of the words, here’s the Proclamation, as read today:

Whereas heretofore, his late Majesty King James the first and his progenitors, Lords of the Manor of Rowell had, and used to have, one fair in the year, to be holden within the said Manor, which said fair is now by good and lawful means come to Zandra Maunsell Powell.

She, the said Zandra Maunsell Powell, doth by these presents notify and declare, that the said fair shall begin this Monday after the feast of the Holy Trinity, and so to continue for the space of five days next, after the holding and keeping of it, and no longer, during which time it shall be lawful for all Her Majesty’s subjects to come , to go, to buy and to sell all manner of cattle, merchandise and other stuff being saleable ware and allowed to be bought and sold by the laws of this Kingdom.

No toll for cattle, stakes for horses, sheep-pens, shows and stalls are charged for as heretofore. And she further chargeth and commandeth all manner of persons within the liberties of the said fair to keep the Queen’s peace in all things upon such penalties as the laws and statutes of this Kingdom are provided.

God Save the Queen and the Lord of the Manor!


About djpaterson

Reader, Writer, Arithmeticer. Not always in that order.
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4 Responses to Ye Olde English Customes – Rowell Fair Proclamation

  1. Wow, that video of the horseplay – with the local cops just watching, was just weird to, well watch!

  2. Lynda Mortensen says:

    Fond memories of Rowell Fair, Rum & Milk for ‘breakfast’ followed by a good fry-up after the proclamation. I used to live in Rothwell, but I now live in Colorado, USA and miss our weird & wonderful British customs very much!

    • djpaterson says:

      Hi, Lynda. Funnily enough I awoke on Proc day to read a Tweet from an American friend commenting on weird British customs (that one was cheese carrying, I think) so I replied with a smile on my face that I was up early to enjoy a similar thing!

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