Historic Wickham Horse Fair is being ‘killed off’ by slow trade and low turn-out, say traders
TRADERS at a historic horse fair have expressed concern the event is dying as declining business saw this year’s event – believed to be the 750th - bereft of past amusements.
Wickham Horse Fair continued a tradition which dates back to the 1269, with hundreds of visitors from traveller communities across the UK coming to Wickham Square to trade and parade horses yesterday.
But several attendees expressed concerns about changing spending habits and safety regulations contributing to the ‘decline’ of the fair.
Marisa Wall, who runs the amusements at the event with her family, said: ‘We’ve been coming here for more than 15 years.
‘It’s definitely declining, as you can see by the size of the funfair. The numbers have definitely gone down.’
Previous years have seen the funfair company attend with a large dodgem amusement, but slow business means it is no longer profitable for the company to bring the attraction.
Marisa added: ‘It’s a sad, sad shame. It’s a great day, people are still having a great time.
‘Ten years ago you could come to the fair, and buy what you want - now it’s all online, so people don’t come.’
As well concerns about changing spending habits, other patrons attributed the decline to increasing regulation of the fair.
John Smith, 65, from Kent, said: ‘This is one of the last fairs - the police are taking them all away, all over the country.
‘They are making so many rules and regulations about what you can do and what you can’t do. It’s killing it off.
John, who has traded horses at the fair for more than a decade, said: ‘This fair wasn’t started 10 years ago - I’ve been coming here for 55 years.
‘This is the first year I’ve not brought a mare.’
Hampshire Constabulary closed the A334 between the traffic lights at Blind Lane and the roundabout junction of the A32 to accommodate the number of visitors to the fair, with horse boxes being parked between the north end of the square and the junction at Blind Lane and Titchfield Lane.
Superintendent Alison Heydari said the event is ‘steeped in history.’
She added: “We have been working closely with organisers, local authority partners and businesses to make sure this is a safe environment for visitors and residents at the event.”
Despite concerns about the fair’s future, some attendees remain optimistic about its longevity.
Louise Briggs, who has been coming to fair for more than 20 years, said: ‘There are a lot of rules and regulations, and there’s fewer people.
‘It’s never going to be shut down - it’s been going for too long.’
She added: ‘You get the RSPCA moaning about the horses - a lot of it is just people being anti-traveller.’
Police officers and RSPCA inspectors took one horse into RSPCA care under the Animal Welfare Act due to the animal’s condition at today's event.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA: ‘Our main concern is always animal welfare.
‘Any concerns we have about animals we have to follow up, no matter who reports the concerns or who its about.
‘It’s the only fair way - we treat everyone equally, no one gets treated differently.’