The Mop Fair

by Tewkesbury Register

Tewkesbury Register, 15th of October 1932

The coming and passing of Tewkesbury October fair, gives rise to reflections upon its origin and significance.

It is the outcome and survival of an ancient custom which has obtained for many centuries in this and the countries of Europe. Most of the famous fairs of Medieval times in England and upon the Continent, with their tolls and other revenues and their limits of time and space, were grants from the Sovereign to Abbots Bishops and other ecclesiastical dignaturies and a fair was generally held during the period of a Saint's feast, and in the precincts of the church - the time and place of the chief popular assemblages, but in England this desecration of the Church and Churchyard was forbidden by statutes of Henry III and Edward II. So very intimate was the connection between the fair and the feast of the Saint, that the former has very commonly been regarded as an off-shoot or development of the latter. Nevertheless, there are grounds for the supposition that fairs were already existing national institutions long before the church turned or was privileged to turn them to her own profit. People assembled at fairs with the main object of selling and purchasing merchandise, but with this was associated the pleasure of social intercourse and public enjoyment.

In the early part of the last century [the 19th] there were seven annual fairs in Tewkesbury, but in consequence of some of them interfering with other fairs and great markets in the neighbourhood, it was agreed at a public meeting in 1827 to discontinue two of them, leaving five to be held - on the second Monday in March, the second Wednesday after the 4th September for cheese, wool, and as well as for livestock, and on October 10, but the great day for hiring servants was on the 10th October. Many of our readers will remember this hiring custom - now fallen into disuse - and also the two "mops" referred to, the latter of which was commonly termed the "runaway mop."

Our fairs for the sale of stock - on alternate Wednesday - and the October pleasure fair, are survivals of ancient system, the last named, though devoid of mercial aspect, being the most striking link with practices of the past.

The fair tolls are the perquisites of the Corporation, and we understand that they are this year more substantial than for many years past, and will be a welcome addition to our public funds.

The amount derived from the generosity of the amusement caterers who ran their shows on Saturday evening for Tewkesbury medical charities was also great than ever. Monday's fair was extraordinarily free from disorder, which was an outstanding characteristic of the fairs in days gone by. A word of commendation is due to the Borough Surveyor (Mr W. Ridler) for the excellent arrangements he made in the disposal of the sites of the various fair paraphernalia and for having arranged the clearance of the streets so early on Tuesday morning. the obstruction of the streets common on these occasions was reduced to a minimum, and with the capable aid of the police, there was little delay in the traffic.

Further reading about Mop Fairs is available on Wikipedia


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