By CoffeePotter

The Runaway Mop

I had to go into Stratford (on-Avon) this afternoon for an appointment, and totally forgot that the Runaway Mop was due in town. There were signs as I approached Stratford which read "Town Centre Closed" so I made a bit of a detour and parked where I knew would be ok but a slightly longer walk. As it happened there were only about two roads that were closed and I could have gone straight to where I was headed.

Technophobe blipped the Alcester Mop a few weeks ago, and Stratford Mop is very similar.

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 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.

Stratford Mop Fair had 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). In the 1950s, special trains were laid on to ferry the local population to and from the fair.

Stratford also has a 'runaway mop' held one week after the first Friday following 12th October. The tradition of this is from the need for employers to reconsider and re-hire any staff before committing to a full years work. Equally, any employees not happy with their new employer could run away (hence the name) and be re-hired by another employer, but he would then have to stay with him for the following year, like it or not!

When I was a child the Mop was strictly on the 12th (except if the 12th was a Sunday) but would open for about 2 hours the previous evening, when all profits were supposed to go to charity. The Runaway Mop was also only one evening, on the Friday. Now, although the Mop Fair is far smaller, it goes on for two nights, and so does the Runaway Mop. I'm not quite sure how that crept into being, but it did.

This picture shows a literally hair raising ride (which I don't know the name of), and the Twister, next to the American Fountain, with some 16th Century buildings to the left. There are people in those basket things at the ends of those long arms. You wouldn't catch me up there, without paying me a HUGE amount of money! All of these rides are erected in a matter of hours, mostly overnight, but it's what the fairground men do for a living, so they all know what they're doing.

Thanks you for all the kind wishes and thoughts from yesterday. I'm feeling much improved though not quite fighting fit.

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