Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

The Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair is best enjoyed at night.
© Phillipp Richter, via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

With thousands of visitors pounding its cobbled streets every year, Stratford-upon-Avon can’t be described as a ‘quiet’ town at the best of times. But if you’re visiting Stratford this weekend, it might be a little busier and noisier than usual, especially after dark…

This weekend, the Stratford-upon-Avon Mop fair is in town! But “what’s a ‘mop fair’?” you ask?

Back in the 14th century, during the reign of King Edward III, tradespeople, labourers and servants looking for work would gather in the town centre every 12th October (or thereabouts) to mingle with potential employers. They would carry an item representing their trade, and any unskilled person would simply carry a mop instead.

Employers would mingle among the tradesmen and present their chosen workers with a small token of money as a contract, which the workers would then be able to spend at the stalls and fair attractions which sprang up to accompany this annual event.

These days, there’s no bartering for labour and not too many mops in sight either. Instead, the Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair is a two-day fun fair located right in the centre of town. This year’s mop fair takes place tonight and tomorrow (Friday 10th and Saturday 11th October).

Many of the town centre streets will be closed to vehicles, so instead of queues of traffic there will be queues of people all lining up to take their turn on the next thrill-seeking fairground ride.

The mop fair is best enjoyed in the evening, when the bright neon lights of the fairground rides are twinkling, the music is pumping, and the smells of delicious street food stalls tempt you in for supper. Bring your spending money and sense of fun!

If you miss the Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair this weekend, don’t panic! Traditionally, the Runaway Mop was held one week after the main mop fair, and was a time when bosses could hire new men after firing any not fit for purpose from the week before! This year’s Runaway Mop fair is held on 23rd and 24th October so you have another opportunity to take part in this modern version of a historical event.