Today (Wednesday, September 16) would have been the opening day of Barnstaple Fair but instead saw its cancellation for the first time in almost 200 years.

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

Disease is again to blame, this time it is the coronavirus pandemic but in 1832 cholera was rife and ‘public exhibitions and amusements’ were cancelled.

With social distancing next to impossible at the fair, Barnstaple Town Council has reluctantly decided to cancel the 2020 event, following the earlier cancellation of Barnstaple Carnival.

Instead, the council has today held a small fair ceremony behind closed doors at the Guildhall, to help continue the tradition in a small way.

In 1832 the local newspaper published a proclamation warning the populace the fair had been cancelled and in keeping with that tradition, the North Devon Gazette has offered to publish the 2020 proclamation, which you can view as a PDF here.

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Instead of the traditional fair opening ceremony at the Guildhall, which would have marked the start of fair week, culminating in the carnival on the Saturday, all of which has been cancelled.

Memories of Barnstaple fair. Picture: Barnstaple Fair Heritage SocietyMemories of Barnstaple fair. Picture: Barnstaple Fair Heritage Society

Barnstaple Fair, once held in the Square, pictured around 1855.Barnstaple Fair, once held in the Square, pictured around 1855.

Barnstaple Fair. Picture: Andrew PetteyBarnstaple Fair. Picture: Andrew Pettey