Horse parade to keep town's centuries-old tradition alive
PUBLISHED: 11:00 12 March 2018
Centuries ago, one of the biggest horse-trading fairs took place in a small market town in West Norfolk.
At it’s height, thousands of people would flock to Downham Market to buy and sell horses on St Winnold’s Day (March 3) with as many as 10,000 animals being sold.
Dealing would take place in the streets and in the Howdale field over three days, where many thousands of horses were supplied to the armed forces during the First World War to tow gun carriages.
The Downham Market sign even features horses to commemorate the town’s horse-trading heritage.
To mark it’s equine history, the St Winnold’s Fair takes place every year in March, with this year’s event taking place on Friday, March 16.
The fair also commemorates the town’s first market charter which was granted by Edward the Confessor in 1046, 20 years before the Battle of Hastings and the start of the Norman Conquest.
As in previous years the town’s mayor welcomes guests before the charter received from Edward the Confessor is read out by the town crier.
The procession of horses and carriages - followed by civic dignitaries - will begin at 9am from the town council offices, on Paradise Road.
Dozens of spectators are expected to line the streets as the parade - which will include ponies and traps led by a Shire Horse - makes its way through the town before ending at the town hall where the market is located.
The horse fair was initially held in the fields between the village of Boughton and Wereham, before it moved to Downham Market in the 19th century.
The tradition fell by the wayside before it was revived by way of a parade around 14 years ago by the former town mayor Stephen Teverson.
The fair is named after St Winnold, a 6th Cornish saint whose family fled to Brittany to avoid the Saxons. Although he has no connection with Downham Market, the town’s masonic lodge and a street is named after him as well as priory in nearby Wereham.