For centuries the horse fair held over several days in Downham Market at this time of year was one of the largest of its type in Europe. At its height centuries ago, more than 10,000 horses were bought and sold during the fair, which began on St Winnold’s Day, and helped to replenish stocks for various armies on the continent.
The fair has long disappeared from Downham Market but people still lined the streets yesterday to watch an annual procession make its way through the town which recognises its once pre-eminent place in horse trading.
The event is also a celebration of the continued success of the town’s markets, which were granted to the town in 1046 by Edward The Confessor.
The civic procession, led by Bernard, a shy horse from nearby Church Farm, left the town council offices at 9am and headed towards the Hollies car park.
After a slow stroll along Paradise Road, dignitaries were greeted by children from Hillcrest and Clackclose primary schools who lined the pavement outside the Morrison store in the car park.
The mayors and mayoresses from St Edmundsbury, Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton and Kettering joined borough and town councillors in talking to the children and paying compliments to the youngsters for the horseshoes they had designed.
The procession then made its way up Bridge Street before arriving at the busy market outside the Town Hall where Downham Mayor John Fox welcomed the town’s guests
The charter received from Edward The Confessor was then read out by town crier Ray Wales before West Norfolk Mayor Zipha Christopher toasted the town and invited guests enjoyed a celebratory breakfast with locally sourced ingredients in the Town Hall.