HUNDREDS of travellers took over a market town for a horse fair steeped in history.
Wickham Horse Fair was held on Saturday, drawing huge numbers of travellers to the event.
But the day was marred by two minor punch-ups, an emaciated colt being seized by the RSPCA and owners of 10 other horses being told to withdraw their animals from show or sale due to poor condition.
Traveller Joseph Lee, 55, said he had been coming to the festival each year since he was a baby.
‘It’s important to keep this going for tradition of the travellers,’ he said.
‘Other minority groups, they have Notting Hill Carnival, they have Polish festivals and the Indian people have their festivals and it’s important – we’ve got just as much culture as them but in this country they tend to forget that as we live here.’
He added families in different parts of the country use the fair as an opportunity to catch up, as well as continuing their tradition.
The event is protected by a Royal Charter from King Henry III, dating from 1269.
Adam World, 32, was with his daughter Angelica, one, wife Michelle, 29, and her mother Margaret Bennett, 72.
He said: ‘Angelica loves it. The attraction was the horses, it’s something different.’
Michelle added: ‘It’s something nice to come and have a look at.’
One Wickham resident, who asked not to be named, said: ‘It’s tradition and it provides a bit of entertainment for all ages in the family.’
RSPCA chief inspector Paul Williams said one young horse was seized.
He said: ‘It was just a couple of individuals brought poor stock down trying to take the opportunity to sell them.
‘They were given the appropriate animal welfare advice.
‘The one that was really poor was only a youngster.
‘It was suffering so we’ve removed it from the fair. We took it into our possession.’
Money spent by the RSPCA and public agencies on the fair cannot be recouped as there is no overall organiser.
In 2015, Hampshire police spent an extra £5,289 on policing the event, with 174 officers on duty across three days.
In a statement issued before the day, Supt Alison Heydari said: ‘We resource all events according to the assessed risk.’