No longer a recruitment fair

March 01 2015

The twice-yearly MOP Fair takes place later this month. Love it or loathe it, the fair is very much a part of Chipping Sodbury’s heritage and has been around for centuries.

Fair

Chipping Sodbury Mop; Friday 20th and Saturday 21st March 2015


The twice-yearly MOP Fair takes place later this month. Love it or loathe it, the fair is very much a part of Chipping Sodbury’s heritage and has been around for centuries.
The development of ‘Hiring’ or MOP Fairs’ can be traced back as far as the fourteenth century. The 1351 Statute of Labourers, introduced by Edward III, helped to regulate the wages of servants after the Black Death. Labour at the time was in short supply and pay demands were high. The Statute placed controls on wages and much of the hiring took place at MOP Fairs.
All manner of people would attend MOP Fairs in search of employment; farm workers, servants, labourers and craftsman dressed in their Sunday best clothes would seek out work following the end of the October-to-October working season.
Prospective workers would attend the fair often wearing an emblem or carrying a tool that signified their trade. Milkmaids carried a milking stool, shepherds a crook or tuft of wool, housemaids held brooms or a mop. This is why some hiring fairs became known as MOP Fairs.
Household staff were a significant percentage of those available for hire. If they were chosen for a job, they were given cash as a retainer, which was usually spent at the fair on sideshows, food and drink and having a good time.
Many towns held two Mops, the ‘Little Mop’, held on the Saturday before old Michaelmas in October and the ‘Big Mop’ a week later. If after the first week they were not suited to the job (in their or their employer’s opinion), they could go to the ‘Big Mop’ Fair a week later to try again.
In Chipping Sodbury the hiring element died out in the late 19th century, but the twice-yearly Mop Fair continues.
A shooting incident in around 1904 led to the death of a young boy, Charlie Morgan. Charlie was on the roundabout ride when a stray bullet from the shooting gallery hit him. His demise resulted in the fair being moved from the Street to the Rag, now Couzens Close.
The Mop Fair moved back to the Street in around 1930 where it has been held ever since. A few years ago many of the larger rides were moved to the Town Car Park but complaints about noise from the neighbouring houses ensured the experimental move was short lived.
Today the Mop continues to draw a large crowd and is much loved by the children of the town, but disliked by some of the traders who feel it drives shoppers away.

Photograph: Mr John Mainstone