Henry VIII gave King’s Lynn Mart a Royal charter - and the council can’t cut our days or stop us opening on Valentine’s Day, say Norfolk showmen,

PUBLISHED: 12:32 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 13:25 23 November 2012

Lynn Mart, which operates under a Royal charter. Picture: Matthew Usher

Lynn Mart, which operates under a Royal charter. Picture: Matthew Usher

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

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.”

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