Barton Fayre

Barton Fayre is the last of the City of Gloucester’s old Charter Fairs, with roots back to a 13th Century Royal Charter. It was originally a cheese fair,a sheep fair, a hiring fair and a ‘pleasure fair’.By the turn of this century, it had become primarily simply a funfair, and right up until W.W.II it was one of the largest in the country. After that, like most others, its popularity declined. until it virtually died out,except for a small, annual funfair in Gloucester Park. Some years ago, attempts were made by the City Council to revive the event as a street fair in the town centre, but it was never really successful, until after about ten years of lobbying, the Barton Residents Association persuaded the Council to close Barton Street to traffic for the day, and revive the event as a genuine community effort. This will be the fifth year of the enterprise.The first few years have been hugely successful, and included a very wide rage of stalls and entertainments. The whole thing is played for laughs, with a decided air of chaos and eccentricity about it. The City Council estimates that some 30,000 people have attended each year. The whole event is built around the Making of the Mayor of Barton. Sadly this event seems to have been abandoned

The Mayor of Barton is a ‘mock’ Mayor, one of only a few left in England, and probably unique in that it is an urban office rather than one attached to a rural community. It all started when Charles II returned to the Throne. He didn’t like Gloucester very much, because they had sided with Cromwell during the English Civil War, and indeed successfully withstood a famous siege, refusing entry to a force commanded by the new King’s father. On return, Charles took his revenge in various ways, knocking down the City walls, and severely reducing the City boundaries. This left the Barton area outside the City. The residents didn’t like that very much, and decided that, if they couldn’t defer to the Mayor of Gloucester, then they’d invent their own, simply to poke fun at Gloucester’s official powers-that-be. Originally, the man who had made the biggest fool of himself during the preceding year was appointed Mayor of Barton, who was always installed on ‘Wap Monday’, which was the opening day of the medieval Barton Fayre. Things went along swimmingly – and bibulously – until mid-Victorian times when the office fell into disuse. Around 12 years ago, the Barton Residents Association, wishing to improve the quality of life in a badly run-down area of Gloucester, revived the office, which has been a great success. Nowadays, someone who has given exemplary service to Barton is presented with the office, with the proviso that they must have lived in the area for at least two years.The views of various organisations, and the public at large are sought each year, but the Mayor of Barton is actually appointed by the COURT LEET OF BARTON SAINT MARY, an eccentric body composed of like-minded souls. And the installation is still made at Barton Fayre on the first Saturday in September. A wild procession then ensues, down to Gloucester’s Guildhall, where the ‘real’ Mayor and Sheriff of the City are escorted back to Barton Street for refreshment and general jollity.During the year, the Mayor of Barton is frequently asked to present prizes, open events, and generally make himself useful on behalf of the community.

Barton Fayre 1999

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