Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

The 2018 annual Mop Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon will take place on Thursday 11 October and Friday 12 October.

The Charity Mop is on Thursday 11 October from 15:00 until 23:00. The Main Mop is on Friday 12 October from 11:00 to 23:00 and will be formally opened by the Chairman of Stratford-on-Avon District Council, Councillor Christopher Kettle.

Stratford's associated 'Runaway Mop' will take place on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 October.

Road Closures

To accommodate the Mop, the following streets in Stratford-upon-Avon will be closed from 00.01 on Thursday 11 October until 07:30 on Saturday 13 October 2018:

  • Greenhill Street
  • Rother Street (from Ely Street)
  • Wood Street
  • Union Street
  • Bridge Street
  • Windsor Street (from Mansell Street)
  • Meer Street
  • Henley Street
  • High Street

This map1 shows the road closures for you

The Runaway Mop will also have road closures in the town centre. The following roads will be closed from 00.01 on Thursday 25 October until 06:00 on Saturday 27 October 2018:

  • Greenhill Street
  • Rother Street (from entrance to NCP car park)
  • Wood Street
  • Windsor Street (from Mansell Street)
  • Meer Street

This map2 also shows the road closures for you

The council appreciates that these closures can cause problems with access for vehicles and parking during this time, but the road closures will be strictly enforced.

Mop Fair Legal Advice

In 2003, Stratford-on-Avon District Council obtained legal advice on the Mop Fair. The issues covered included both the rights to hold these fairs, the locations where they are held, and how we can arrange for them to be moved to other locations such as the 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)".

He also identified that if the 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 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

Stratford-on-Avon 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 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.

Employers would move among 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 among the stalls set-up at the fair, which would be selling food and drink and offering games to play.

Michaelmas Day is celebrated on 29 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 10 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 are a recent creation.

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

History of Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

Stratford-upon-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 12 October (or is moved if 12 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 year's 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.

Further Information

For further information, please contact Head of Technical and Community Services Tony Perks on 01789 260620 or by email at tony.perks@stratford-dc.gov.uk.

Last updated on 09/10/2018

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