Showmen have voted against cutting the number of days that the King’s Lynn Mart operates.

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Council: “We’re disappointed”

Ray Harding, chief executive of West Norfolk council, said: “We are disappointed that, at this late stage, the Showmen’s Guild is raising objections to the changes agreed by the borough council to the annual Mart fair arrangement.

“The council will research further the legislative issues raised by the Showmen’s Guild but does not, at this point, propose to make any changes to the arrangements agreed by Council for 2013, when the Mart is scheduled to open on February 14.

“The council is awaiting further recommendations from the coroner with regards to safety and traffic management during the period of the Mart and will respond promptly and responsibly to any recommendations made.”

The traditional fair, which is one of the oldest in the world, has been coming to Lynn for two weeks each February since the reign of Henry VIII. But councillors have proposed the number of days should be cut to eight or nine, with safety marshalls paid for by the showmen.

The changes were called for by a task group set up to review the fair, after a three-year-old boy died after being hit by a car during this year’s Mart.

The group, made up of representatives from the council, police, fire service and fair operators, stopped short of recommending roads around the fair be closed to traffic.

But last night the Showmens Guild of Great Britain said it had voted unanimously to reject the changes.

In a statement, it said the Mart operated under a Royal Charter, granted by Henry VIII, in 1573. It added that the proposed reduction in days was “unacceptable”.

Under the council’s proposals, the Mart would open on the Friday before half term from 2014. But showmen say this would mean the mart would lose its traditional Valentine’s Day opening.

“The Showmens Guild has informed the council that we are employing the services of the National Fairground Archives to validate the Royal Charter and the rights and privileges it gives to our members to open on the traditional date,” it said.

“We are well aware of our duty to the safety of the public and with that in mind we will be employing an independent safety consultant to look at all aspects including traffic management.

“The Mart Fair is one of the oldest fairs in existence. It only remains on the Tuesday Market by virtue of the ancient charter.

“It was given to the people of Kings Lynn. The council is only the custodian of the charter and does not have the power to alter or amend without an application to parliament.

“We hope we have the support of the local community because it is to them this charter was granted by King Henry VIII in 1573.”

On Monday, an inquest heard that Rio Bell, from lowestoft, died after he was hit by a car in King Street, near the Mart.

Coroner William Armstrong said he would be writing to the council, asking it to explore further safety measures. He added: “At the time of this tragedy, Rio was not under suitable control or supervision.”

3 comments

  • Did'nt Henry V111 die in 1547? So surely it must have been Elizabeth 1 who granted the charter in 1573? Or Henry V111 at an earlier date?

    Report this comment

    G.D.Bartlett

    Friday, November 23, 2012

  • I believe it should be 1537 when it was first granted however the 1873 fairs act endorses the rights of the showmen to take up the historic rights and privileges and the council could lose the rights to collect the toll (rent) from the showmen as in certain charters the rights would revert back to the crown

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    John Traylen

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • All power to the Showmen and the Norfolk people who value the last of our remaining traditions. The Lynn News campaigners and councillors shamelessly used the tragedy to wipe away hundreds of years of tradition. The commonsense conclusions made by the coroner in the case showed that , as many local people suspected, the Mart was in no way to blame for the accident. the councillors calling for restrictions and changes should be ashamed-just because the town is filling up with the offspring of London overspill and moved-ins is no reason to bow to pressure and wipe away our past.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, November 23, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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