Dignitaries and schools celebrate horse trading

St Winnold's Day parade: Pictures Steve and Chris Nunn

St Winnold's Day parade: Pictures Steve and Chris Nunn - Credit: Archant

Civic dignitaries from across the region gathered in Downham Market to take part in the annual St Winnold's Day parade, which celebrates the town's once significant role in horse trading.

The parade also recognises the heritage of the town's markets, which have been a central focus since they were granted by Edward the Confessor in 1046.

For centuries, horse trading was significant in the town and St Winnold's Day marked the start of one of the biggest horse fairs in Europe. At its height, more than 10,000 horses were bought and sold to help replenish stocks for various armies on the continent. Many of these horses had been bred and reared on the Fens to the west of Downham Market, land which was then generally unsuitable for arable cultivation.

Although the horse fair has long since disappeared from the town, the markets continue.

John Fox, mayor of Downham Market, said: 'It was absolutely brilliant, really nice. We had quite a number of local mayors attending plus the borough mace bearers.

'The parade was led by a shire horse and there was a pony and trap from Riding for the Disabled.

'The borough mayor, Colin Manning, was there, plus Wing Cdr Gordon Melville from RAF Marham, the High Sheriff of Norfolk, Nicholas Pratt, among others.'

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The parade started at 9am yesterday at the town council offices, and made its way along Paradise Road, through the Hollies car park, on to the town hall and Market Place, where the town crier proclaimed the historic charter.

Guests were then invited into the town hall to inspect the horse-related craft items made and displayed by children from the town's two primary schools.

How are you celebrating your town or village's heritage? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk