South Wales and Northern Ireland Section
Administrative area: Dyfed, Bridgend County Borough, South Glamorgan, West Glamorgan, Gwent, Powys, Herefordshire and the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The busiest period of the year in the South Wales Section occurs in May, with a wealth of fairs on both sides of the Marches. What is known to the showmen as ‘The May Run’ begins at the former Roman legion fortress of Caerleon with a fair held on the town-centre Goldcroft Common. The first Tuesday in May is Fair Day at Brecon, where the amusements occupy the streets of the town. Also held in the streets, the May Fair in the Herefordshire market town of Leominster usually takes place at the weekend prior to the May Day bank holiday. The first Thursday in the month is the day when the showmen erect and operate their amusements in the principal street of the picturesque former county town of Montgomery. The major fair in this hectic sequence of events is St Ethelbert’s Fair at Hereford. This three-day fair that extends throughout the city centre was granted by charter to the bishop of Hereford in 1121 and it is the oldest surviving medieval fair in Britain. The civic opening ceremony incorporates the payment of twelve and half bushels of wheat to the bishop, a token rent that was set when Parliament transferred the rights of the fair to the Corporation in the 1830s.
Other fairs along the Marches in May include those at Kington, Knighton, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Builth Wells and Rhayader. Of very recent origin, the highly successful Big Cheese Festival at Caerphilly in late July boasts a large and attractive funfair.
Neath Great Fair in September was granted in 1280 and is today the largest pleasure fair in the Principality. In its trading heyday it was famous for the sale of Welsh flannel. Although the amusements are to be found now on a site of fairly recent origin, the market stalls that form part of the fair continue it as far as its original location, the walls of Neath Castle.
The historic county of Pembrokeshire has two important autumn fairs: the Portfield Fair at Haverfordwest and Pembroke Fair, both held in October. In Herefordshire, Ledbury Mop is a survivor from the days of the Michaelmas hirings.
The year concludes with numerous fairs in November: the second of Brecon’s two annual fairs and a run of fairs along the west coast of Wales that includes Cardigan, Aberaeron and Aberystwyth, whose three fairs on successive Mondays stretch into December some years.