Masham boasts one of the largest and finest market squares in England, famous for its sheep sales where in the past as many as 70,000 sheep were sold each year. The sheep sales were originally held weekly, attracting flocks from the nearby estates of Jervaux and Fountains Abbey. Masham also lends its name to a breed of sheep, the progeny of a Teeswater ram and either a Dalesbred or a Swaledale ewe.
Susan Cunliffe-Lister and a band of willing volunteers restarted the Sheep Fair 30 years ago. It was intended as a one-off to raise money for farmers in Africa – Sheep Aid. It raised £7,950 so they decided to make it an annual event, raising money for local charities. Since then it has raised £158,700 for Yorkshire charities.
The popular Masham Sheep Fair is now held each autumn (September 30th & October 1st in 2017) commemorating the past, raising much money for charity, and filling the town with sheepy fun and entertainment.
Events include an action packed programme on both Saturday and Sunday, with a Sheep Show, Sheep Racing (both flat and over jumps!), Craft Market, Bishop Blaize Procession, Fleece Stalls, Wool Competition, Sheepdog Demonstrations, Hand Bell Ringers, Morris Dancers, Art Exhibition and Tours of Theakstons & Black Sheep Breweries, as well as a small Children’s Fair. There is also a flower festival in the lovely St. Mary’s Church.
Masham is a wonderful market town that is worth visiting at any time of year, as well as during the Sheep Fair. It’s also a great base for exploring the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.