Some Rowell Fair Traditions Explained

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Each Proclamation Monday sees a relatively “new” but now established tradition. The Bailiff and some of his entourage re-visit all the town locations later in the morning where the Ancient Charter has been read earlier and rum and milks have been provided. The Rowell Fair Society provide a gift as a thank-you for the Bailiff and RFS President to present and for 2017, the gift was a framed photo. The photo displays some of the traditional features of the Rowell Charter Fair.

The Bailiff’s “Staff of Office” is over 200-years-old and once would have been at least half as tall again. In the past, the Bailiff to the Lord of the Manor would collect rents with the staff of office giving him the authority to do so and as he was invariably on horseback the staff would have touched the ground as he sat in the saddle. On the staff there are coats of arms of the Monarch and the Lord of the Manor.

The Bailiff wasn’t always so popular!

Rowell Fair - Bailiff seated on horse with Chief Halberdier alongside

As the Bailiff collected rents he would have been accompanied by Halberdiers carrying halberds to protect him as went about his business as rent collection was not always popular! The short halberds carried today have metal heads and many were made in Balls Foundry and some are over 100 years old. The tips are now balls of metal and not points as they probably were originally.

Photo of Halberdiers

An aim was to have one halberd per Monarch since King John but as there have been over 30 Monarchs there were a few missing. In 2004, to commemorate the 800th year, several of the taller ceremonial halberds were commissioned by the Royal Fair Society (RFS) to try and complete the gaps and also to give slightly more mature halberdiers the opportunity to continue to take part in our ancient traditions without the rough and tumble!

The Bailiff wears a top hat and the collaret was commissioned by the RFS with the badges engraved with the known names of past Bailiffs.

Rum and Milk

Rowell Fair - Girl distributing Rum and Milk

The rum and milk drinks were originally a drink that would have been given to those travelling by horse and coach as a warming drink when they stopped at hostelries along the way. A red hot poker would have been put into each cup to heat the drink. An unusual but tasty drink that is still enjoyed (without the red hot poker!) during Rowell Fair week.

Celebrations and Feasting

As the first Rowell Fair weekend is based around Trinity Sunday, families would get together from far and wide to celebrate and feasting would include cooked hams and Rowell Fair Curd Tarts. (A more recent tradition is the Rowell Fair Curd Tart Competition held on the first Saturday). In the past, if an oak bough was over a dwelling doorway this signified that home-made beer was on sale and Rowell had a good reputation for such beer as it had its own spring water.

“God Save the King
the Lord of the Manor”