One of the highlights of growing up in Tenby during the 1960s and 1970s was the annual St Margaret’s Fair held every July in the Butts Field (North Beach Car Park). The fair was opened by the Mayor following a civic procession down to the Butts Field. It was fascinating to watch the town’s dignitaries dressed in their fine robes accompanied by the mace bearers and the town crier. After the official opening merchants sold their wares from the back of Lorries. Some employed some rather dubious techniques. I remember one who sold china where you had to buy some cheap and probably fairly worthless item to remain in the sale and then have the chance of buying something more valuable. Not sure how legal that was!
However the highlight for youngsters like me was the amusements including the dodgems. St. Margaret’s Fair had been held in various locations around the town before moving to the North Beach Car Park. In the early years of the 20th Century it was held on Walls Field now the site of St. Teilo’s School. Later it was held in the South Parade with stalls on both sides of the road and ended its days down at the Salterns. Sadly the fair ceased over 20 years ago.
The good news is that Tenby is once again to have a Fair. St. Matthew’s Fair will be held in the Five Arches car park from October 19 to 21. Once again a civic parade will take place followed by a proclamation and official opening by the Mayor. The Fair is being organized by the Showmen’s Guild.
The history of Fairs in Tenby is interesting. By the 18th century there were five in Tenby. The earliest fair was granted in a charter by William de Valence and his wife Joan in 1290. This fair was granted for the Feast of the Assumption (15 August) and two days afterwards.
In 1581 Queen Elizabeth 1 granted a charter to Tenby allowing an additional fair to be held on the vigil, on the day and on the morrow of the Feast of St. Margaret (31 July).
St Margaret’s fair was the longest lasting of all the Tenby fairs. In 1631 King Charles 1 granted a charter to the town that among other things changed the date of the fair granted by William de Valence from 15 August to St. Matthew’s Day (21 September) and the two days following. It is this fair that is being revised this year although a little bit later (October 19 to 21). In 1693 King William lll and Queen Mary ll granted three additional fairs to Tenby – Whitsun, St. George’s Day (23 April) and St. Clement’s Day (23 November).
The Elizabeth l, Charles l and William and Mary charters can be seen by appointment at Tenby Museum & Art Gallery on the Castle Hill, Tenby.