The historic Kingsbridge Fair Week is back again for 2023. The event was forced to take a two-year break in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid but made a triumphant return last year.

Kingsbridge used to be part of the manor of Churchstow and the Abbots of Buckfast were the lords of the manor.

Abbot John Matthew applied for a royal charter to hold an annual fair in the town. This was confirmed in 1461.

Fairs used to be much more important commercial events, when dues were collected by the landowners, debts were paid, and livestock was bought and sold, as well as the increased business for the town traders. The funfair element was a later addition, which continues to this day.

The quincentenary of Kingsbridge Fair was celebrated in 1961, but the fair had declined in importance over the years. In 1969 a committee was formed to revive the fair, with the first President being the late Bob Kerswell, who as a local farmer had taken part in the sheep and cattle fairs for many years. The fair became a full week of events and entertainment for townspeople and visitors alike, and this year’s Fair Week (2023) is the 54th since its relaunch.

The fair is still held ‘on the day of St. Margaret’, July 20, but the dates of Fair Week vary according to the weekday the 20th falls on. St. Margaret was a popular saint in the late middle ages, although she is thought to be mythical, and survived several tortures including being swallowed by the devil in the form of a dragon.

The link with the 1461 charter is continued at the glove hanging ceremony on the Wednesday evening of every Fair Week, when the charter is read by the town mayor and a stuffed and garlanded glove is hoisted on the Shambles in Fore Street, to show that the fair is in progress and to signify free trade and clemency for its duration.