A traditional event in Ramsbottom that started 180 years has been cancelled for a third year in a row.

The Holcombe Old English Game Fowl Club will not be holding the Ye Olde Gamecock Show after the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) introduced additional licencing conditions.

Due to a spate of bird flu, the annual show, which first took place in 1843, has not run since 2020 and the club's honorary secretary, Russell Taylor, had hoped the event on New Year's Day would be different.  

He said: "We have had trouble with bird flu for several years now but this year has been much better, especially as we went into Autumn.

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 “Defra has agreed that we can have a licence to hold a show but they have made some additional conditions on that licence."

One of these conditions is that a vet must be present from 8am, something Russell said is "unaffordable" and difficult to secure.

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He said: “We had hoped it would go back to previous conditions where you can have a vet available via mobile phone.

“A local vet had already given us permission to do that and we would have had two poultry keepers on had to inspect each bird on arrival.

“If there was a sickly bird, they would be put in isolation units and the vet would be called.

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“However, to have a vet presence from 8am on New Year's Day is asking a lot and even if we could, it is unlikely we could afford to do it.

“I just hope that next year, Defra will relax the conditions further so we can continue this longstanding tradition."

The area has often been associated with game fowl and the Holcombe Hunt, especially when cock fighting was seen as a sport.

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Russell first started as a secretary in the late 70s when the show was held at The Old Dun Horse Hotel, which was licensed for the occasion.

The show moved to the Royal British Legion venue in 2009 after Thwaites closed the pub to make way for apartments.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph at the last event in 2020, Russell said: "We want to keep the breed of Old English Game fowl going.

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“It is probably the nearest you have got to the national fowl. If it were not for events like ours, these birds would slowly become extinct."

The show has its origins in the ancient tradition of cock fighting, a practice that was made illegal in England in 1849.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Because of the devastating impact that bird flu can have on both kept and wild birds, it is essential that poultry shows and gatherings operate to the highest biosecurity standards to keep birds safe.

“Gatherings are permitted in England provided organisers follow the requirements of the general licence allowing such shows, which require a vet to be on site and check birds as they enter.”