Egremont Crab Fair

| July 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Egremont Crab Fair

When: Third Saturday of September

Where: Egremont, Cumbria, England

 History:

The Egremont Crab Fair is an ancient post-harvest event that evolved to become a sort of thanksgiving affair among the serfs to the Manor of Egremont.

In the Middle Ages, after the harvests, which was usually towards the end of September, the serfs gathered wild fruits and, along with their other harvests like vegetables and corn and animals, went to the Lord of the Manor to pay their dues. This yearly congregation of serfs was the first glimmerings of the Egremont Crab Fair, considered one of the oldest fairs in the world as it was chartered by King Henry III in 1267. The charter was issued to the Lord of the Barony of Egremont, Thomas de Multon.

The Lord of Egremont gave away crab apples, which were presumably in excess of the harvest; hence, the name of the fair. The fair also coincided with St. Mary’s Nativity, until a calendar discrepancy moved the dates to their present schedule.

Most of the attractions at the time are now considered too brutal, but there were some uniquely Cumbrian events and traditions that have survived to this day.

About the Event:

The Egremont Crab Fair is known to feature unusual events with modern twists. At the start of the day, a greasy 30-feet pole is erected “at the fish stone by the Market Cross” for contenders to climb up on and win the prize.

The Parade of the Apple Cart is another tradition that is still alive and well, which stemmed from that first tradition started by the Lord of Egremont in giving away crab apples. These apples are then thrown at the crowds that gather at the Main Street.

Cumbrian wrestling is also one of the events that have survived to the modern times. The origins of the wrestling are now lost to history, but it was believed that this brawl session was introduced by Norse-Irish settlers in the 10th century. Each wrestler locks their hands behind their opponent’s back and the goal is to throw the opponent up and down, face-forward. Wrestling costumes are delicately and lavishly embroidered, and prizes do not only go out to the wrestling victor, but also to the one wearing the best costume.

Perhaps there is nothing more popular in Egremont Crab Fair than the World Gurning Championships. “Gurning” means to snarl like a dog or to look savage, but the more modern version is to distort the facial expression or make a grotesque face through a horse collar. The origins of this competition were also obscure, but some claim that it started as a mockery of the village idiot who would get a few pints of ale for making funny faces over a horse’s collar.

Egremont Crab Fair 2012:

This year’s fair is scheduled on September 15 in Cumbria, England.

Travel Tips:

Egremont is an old market town and civil parish that was established even before the Norman conquest of England. Much of what Richard de Lucy laid down in 1200 remained unchanged; the remains of a 12th-century castle can still be found at the end of Main Street near the market place, so take time to soak in Medieval architecture.

Final Thoughts:

To get a taste of how Medieval fairs were conducted, travelers may want to cross off Egremont Crab Fair on their bucket list.

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Category: Calendar, International Festivals, UK Festivals

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