Each year, the City of Exeter upholds the tradition of celebrating the Lammas Fair, the annual ceremony of the Proclamation of Lammas Fair which dates back to before the Norman Conquest, more than 900 years ago.
This year, Lammas Fair will take place on Thursday 6 July 2023. The Lord Mayor's procession of the Lammas Glove, including The High Sheriffs Coach, civic dignitaries and local school children will depart from the Civic Centre at 11.00am and travel down the High Street to the Guildhall, where the proclamation will be read and where the Glove will be displayed from the balcony for a period of three days.
What is the meaning of the Lammas Fair?
The word Lammas derives from the Anglo-Saxon Hlafmaesse or Loaf Mass. Lammas Day, the festival of St Peter ad Vincula, was when the first fruits of the harvest were offered to the Church in the form of a loaf.
The franchise of a fair was a very valuable possession, giving exclusive right to tolls on all articles sold. The fair generally lasted for 3 days.
The Lammas Fair White Glove was displayed during the Fair and was a sign of Royal protection of the peace. The large leather, stuffed glove was attached to a long pole and was decorated with ribbons and a garland of flowers. Prior to the hoisting of the Glove, a Proclamation was made to declare the Fair open. The Proclamation was issued at the time of Edward III in 1330.
A Court known as the "Pie Powder Court" was appointed for every fair to deal with any complaint or other matter arising within the Fair.
Many towns in England still retain their ancient fairs but in most places the reading of the Proclamation and the hoisting of the Glove have been abandoned. Some of the fairs have survived chiefly as pleasure fairs, but most of them are purely agricultural.
Some time in the 1860s the last stalls disappeared but the City was anxious to uphold its ancient customs and has continued to proclaim the Fair and host the Glove as it has done for nine centuries.
There is a brief ceremony when the Lord Mayor reads a Lammas Fair Proclamation - a derivation of the Proclamation introduced in 1330. The Lammas Glove is then hoisted above the Guildhall where it stays for three days and the children cheer heartily.
The City of Exeter is proud to maintain this colourful and ancient tradition.