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Stratford-on-Avon District Council
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Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

Dates for 2014 are as follows:-

Charity Mop - Friday 10 October 2014
Main Mop - Saturday 11 October 2014
Runaway Mop - Thursday 23 and Friday 24 October 2014

In 2003 the District Council obtained legal advice on the Mop Fair. The issues covered included both the rights to hold these Fairs, the locations where there they are held, and how we can arrange for them to be moved to other locations such as recreation grounds.

The lawyer retained reviewed all relevant material including the original Charter granted by Edward VI on 28 June 1553; the Charter granted by James I on 23 July 1611; and the Charter from Charles II dated 31 August 1676. The latter provides that MOPS or fairs should be held “...within and through all places Streets Lanes Alleys and Fields in the said Borough (Stratford upon Avon)"

The Mop Fair
The Mop Fair

He also identified that if the District Council wished to move the Mop from the current historical location, it could only do so with the approval of the public. In December 2004 the District Council consulted the public, with 813 local residents responding to a postal survey.

Key results from this survey were that:-

  • When asked where the Mop fair should be in the centre of Stratford, two-thirds of those responding (68%) felt it should remain at its current location. Exactly one in five said it should be moved to the edge of the town, notably to the Recreation Ground.
  • 81% of respondents agreed that the Mop fair was part of the heritage of Stratford, but conversely 28% expressed the opinion that the Mop fair has no place on the streets of Stratford.
  • Although 56% of respondents said traffic congestion caused them to alter their plans when visiting Stratford at the time of the Mop, 66% did not mind being diverted on to an alternative route.

The District Council concluded that the Mop would need to continue to be operated in the town centre.

There is currently a legal agreement in place for the practical management and operation of Mop Fairs. The consultation will be repeated at some point in the future to see if there is any difference in public opinion before any future agreement is considered by the District Council.

History of Mop Fairs

Farm workers, labourers, servants and some craftsmen would work for their employer from October to October. At the end of the employment they would attend the Mop Fair dressed in their Sunday best clothes and carrying an item signifying their trade. A servant with no particular skills would carry a mop head – hence the phrase Mop Fair.

MOP06-142
MOP06-142

Employers would move amongst them discussing experience and terms, once agreement was reached the employer would give the employee a small token of money and the employee would remove the item signifying their trade and wear bright ribbons to indicate they had been hired. They would then spend the token amongst the stalls set-up at the fair which would be selling food and drink and offering games to play.

Michaelmas Day is celebrated on the 29th September but Mop Fairs were tied to the seasons and the harvest, not the calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 and 11 days dropped from that year events associated with the end of the harvest moved 11 days later to the 10th October. This date is known as "Old Michaelmas Day" and since 1752 has been the date Mop Fairs take place.

Mops are still held in some English towns, though many have died out. To confuse matters some fairs have adopted the term Mop even though they are not held on or near to Michaelmas Day or they are a recent creation.

Mops usually last for 2 days and take over the centre of the town, and in recent times the Mops have become little more than a funfair.

History of Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

Stratford-on-Avon Mop Fair has its origins in hiring agricultural and domestic labour, set out some time during the reign of Edward III and provision of the statutes of labourers. The date is set for 12th October (or is moved if the 12th October falls on a Sunday), and as a pleasure fair it remains a key date in the Warwickshire calendar. In the 1950s, during the prominence of railway travel, a plethora of special trains were laid on to ferry the local population to and from the fair.

Stratford Mop has an associated 'runaway mop' one week later. The tradition of this is from the need for employers to reconsider and re-hire any staff before committing to a full years work.
This street fair has a tradition of exciting and up-to-date riding machines, as well as maintaining loyal old-fashioned rides. The fair is also renowned for the open roasting of pigs and oxen, and the atmosphere remains at a premium right up until its midnight closure.

For further information please contact Dave Webb, Head of Enterprise, Housing and Revenues on 01789 260900 or by email dave.webb@stratford-dc.gov.uk.