A real quintessential piece of Petworth history

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REMINISCENCES of the past are informing the future of the evergreen Petworth Fair.

From ‘obscure’ beginnings to the present day, the yearly St Edmund’s Day celebration in the town’s Market Square on Tuesday saw people once again marking a tradition of uncertain origin, 
which apparently dates back to at least the 13th Century.

The importance of the fair to the town is not to be underestimated.

“Petworth without its fair would be quite different,” said Peter Jerrome, chairman of the Petworth Society.

“It’s a quintessential Petworth event. There are other things but nothing matches the fair.

“It’s a real turn-of-the-20th-century fair transported into another age.”

In 1986 the fair was in real danger of finishing for good, but Mr Jerrome and the society stepped in to organise the event from that year onwards, and have not looked back since.

“We have kept it going for 27 years and we would like for it to continue,” he added.

He has recently collected together a number of articles that have been published each year in the town about the fair, and incorporated them into a book: St Edmund Smiles.

The book charts the fair’s recent history, and the hardships involved with making sure the tradition continues to live long in the memory.

Mr Jerrome added of the fair: “It remains as unpredictable as it’s ever been. Its history is completely obscure and nothing is particularly predictable.

He also spoke of the ‘electric atmosphere’ of the fair, which he attributed to the confined space in which the event is held.

Despite the poor weather on Tuesday, people still turned out in the evening, especially for the yearly rendition of Sussex By The Sea.

Stall holders also continue to come from miles around for the event, even from as far away as Hailsham.

The fair was officially opened by town crier Mike Hubbard at 3pm.

Now, with another year gone, the fair once more looks to the future, and its continuation of a tradition spanning centuries in Petworth.