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Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 16:23 UK
The history behind Seamer Fair
By Dr Jack Binns
Scarborough historian

Gypsy caravans at Seamer
Gypsies were not originally involved with Seamer Fair

Seamer Fair tends to be mired in controversy these days but it was not always the case.

Back in 1382, when the fair was first granted a Royal Charter, things were very different.

The charter, from Richard II, was given to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Lord of the Manor of Seamer.

The fair was originally opened on 4 July, the feast of St. Martin, patron saint of the Seamer parish.

However, after 1752 when the calendar was modernised, the date was altered to its present one of 15 July. The charter was granted to the Lord of the Manor of Seamer and to his heirs in perpetuity.

Only the Lord of the Manor has the right to hold the fair and only the Crown has the power to revoke the charter.

Horse grazing
Seamer was not traditionally a major horse fair

Not until the 20th century was Seamer Fair associated with gypsies and their horses. The first gypsies did not reach England until the fair was two hundred years old.

The charter permits the sale of 'any lawful goods' as well as allowing any Seamer resident to sell malt liquor from his doorstep during the fair. So the occasion tended to be marked more usually by drunkenness than trading.

Moreover, with or without the presence of travelling people, Seamer was not traditionally a major horse fair. In the past it was always overwhelmed by the great horse fair at Malton and then, more recently, by Appleby.

For more than a hundred years, though, there has been friction between local residents and gypsy visitors to the fair. In July 1911 there were pitched battles which resulted in gypsies being prevented from entering the village or camping on its green.

Nowadays these tensions continue, which is unfortunate given that the proclamation of Seamer Fair specifically commands all resorting to it to keep 'the King's peace'.




SEE ALSO
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