A trio of woollen wonders joined the traditional opening of Barnstaple Fair on Wednesday (September 18).

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The ceremony's procession down the High Street and along The Strand was led by three Exmoor Horn sheep as town clerk Rob Ward read out the ancient proclamation.

Town centre visitors flocked to watch the procession, which followed the traditional ceremony at the Guildhall where guests of Barnstaple Town Council gathered for the Proclamation of the Ancient Fair ceremony, served with traditional 'fairings' of sweets and sherry.

Mayor of Barnstaple, Councillor Alan Rennles decided to recruit the sheep for this year's occasion, which were supplied by Ginny Kingshotte, as a callback to ceremonies from the 1940s and 50s.

Mr Rennles said: "I went to see Ginny at the North Devon Show, and after seeing the sheep in their pen I invited them up.

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

"That was the idea, to reinstall a bit of history and tradition, and I think it's been tremendous."

The ceremony at the Guildhall saw the traditional toasts to 'The Queen', 'Barnstaple Fair', 'the Prosperity of Barnstaple' and 'Our Guests'.

Irene Hockin of Seroptimist International of Barnstaple and District proposed the toast to Barnstaple fair

Mrs Hockin recalled memories of the fair when it was held at 'Monkey Island'.

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

She added: "Barnstaple Fair has been part of my life, and that of many of you. It is an integral part of Barnstaple's history."

Phillip Paris, president of fair providers the Showmen's Guild responded, and offered assurances about the impact of development on the current fair site at Seven Brethren.

He said: "I am sure this visit will stand out as one of the highlights of my time as president.

"I am told Barnstaple Fair is one of, if not the oldest in England at well over 800 years old.

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

"I understand there may be problems on the horizon regarding the site...it's clear to me there's a fantastic relationship between the Western Section of the Showmen's Guild and the town council. I know there are other parties involved but I do feel a solution to the forthcoming problem can be reached."

Deputy Lieutenant of Devon, Christine Williams proposed the toast to 'the prosperity of Barnstaple', which was responded to by Mark Cartmell, a consultant at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.

Mr Rennles proposed the toast to 'our guests', with Superintendent Toby Davies responding.

Mr Rennles spoke about 'friendship' across the town and the valuable role of volunteers in the community.

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The fair runs at Seven Brethren until Saturday night.

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart

The Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt SmartThe Barnstaple Fair Proclamation Ceremony 2019. Picture: Matt Smart