For two saturday’s each October the Charter Fair arrives in Buckingham, each event is packed full of thrilling rides, games and stalls, filling the town centre with oodles of opportunities for fun.
Buckingham’s Historic Charter Fair
Buckingham has enjoyed its Charter Fairs for over 450 years. They provide an opportunity for townsfolk and those from the surrounding area to “let their hair down” on a couple of weekends before the onset of winter.
The Charter Fairs were granted by Royal Charter – in 1554, Mary Tudor granted the free Borough of Buckingham, and a further Royal Charter by Charles II in 1664 also permitted the town to have its market – another tradition that continues to this day.
Originally, the Charter Fair would have been mainly a hiring fair where men could apply for work. These would have been huge events, attracting people from a wide area and accompanied by pedlars, stall holders, fortune tellers, wire-walkers, fire-eaters, roundabouts and other entertainments.
Today, the Charter Fair is brought to us by the Guild of Showmen – a professional body bound by a strict code of rules governing their operation. Changes in the rides and stalls from year to year mean that careful planning is needed before the fair is brought into town. As well as working closely with the Nichols brothers who currently manage the Buckingham Charter Fairs on the Guild’s behalf, the Town Council arranges the road closures and puts up no parking notices.
The road closures ensure that obstructions, including some street furniture and the odd parked car, can be removed in time for everything to be sited. All rides and stalls arrive in a pre-set order and within a tight time span, to avoid clogging up the by-pass and other approach roads. Everything is then set up, power cables are run, rides are levelled and safety-checked, and stalls are assembled and stocked.
Buckingham’s Charter Fairs are part of our long heritage, continue to be enjoyed by huge numbers in the area, and do bring benefits to our historic town.