Unofficial Wickham Square gathering defies cancellation

JUST days since Wickham Square residents and businesses gained new-found freedoms, they were forced to endure chaos and disruption as travellers gathered to mark the town’s annual fair today; despite the event being cancelled for the second successive year due to Covid-19 regulations.

The Wickham Fair started in 1269 and is held on May 20th every year, which is the date Roger De Syres obtained a royal charter from King Henry III to have a weekly market. Thousands of visitors often attend the event in Wickham Square, with market stalls and horse riding the main traditions.

In 2020 the Wickham Fair was understandably cancelled due to Covid-19 regulations at the height of lockdown, but twelve months forward a small ‘symbolic’ event was organised with permissions from Hampshire Police. However at just after 8am, police declared an incident and shut the A32 in both directions, although it reopened by 10.30am.

Shortly afterwards photographs began to emerge on social media showing an increased police presence across the town of Wickham, as approximately 200 people accompanied with many horses and caravans took to the streets to mark the cancelled event. This was despite the event being cancelled, signage placed on all main routes and road closures in place to prevent more people attending; which could be a sign of failure with large crowds.

When addressing media earlier today, a spokeswoman for Hampshire Constabulary added: ‘The Wickham Horse Fair was cancelled earlier this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

‘Together with our partners we are facilitating a symbolic event that can be safely managed within the space available, and in accordance with the current Health Protection Regulations’.

‘We are aware that a number of people, along with vehicles and horses, have arrived outside of the pre-arranged symbolic event. Our officers are on scene and working with our partners to manage this.’

The extra road closures implemented by Hampshire Police saw many Wickham businesses and residents struggle throughout the day as normal customers were unable to visit the Square. Salon and beauty appointments were cancelled, whilst some private shops closed for their own safety and lack of business on a wet windy day.

It is hoped that Wickham Square will be able to return to normal trade and events from tomorrow (21st) with the crowds largely dispersed. Hampshire Police have stated that officers will be patrolling the area regularly over the weekend to ensure safety and reaffirmed their desire to issue fines under public health regulations if required.

Written by Connor Steel / Photograph courtesy of Portsmouth News

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