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 12th October 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 years work.
This street fair has a tradition of exciting and up-to-date riding machines, as well as maintaining loyal old-fashioned rides. In the first part of the twentieth century Tom Clarke's famous Gondolas held the record for most consecutive attendances and the fair was also land-marked by Strickland's Horse ride. 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.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald describes the Mop from 1907 as follows: "If any proof were wanting, it was afforded on Saturday last, that the Mop exhibits no signs of deterioration. On the contrary, its attractions become more supreme and bring an increased number of visitors. Fine weather favoured the event, and the result was an enormous attendance. The after midday trains from London, Birmingham, Leamington, Evesham and Redditch were crowded and one continuous stream of people wended its way for two hours from the GWR station to the centre of the Fair. One wonders why a spectacle of this kind should elicit so much interest, but the fact remains that Stratford Mop out-distances all its competitors, and there is something unique in the manner people are catered for. Besides the increased number of visitors, there was a greater variety of shows than on previous occasions. Year by year one sees vast improvements effected in these pleasure giving concerns. The ancient roundabout has experienced a greater number of changes than any attraction. It is not so very long since these contrivances were propelled by manual labour, lads being employed for that purpose. Animal labour gradually superseded this condition of things and in turn it was put into the background by steam as the motive power. And what a change has taken place in the outward appearance of these creations! Horses were subject to the humiliation of being put into the shade by enormous chanticleers and the switchback threatens to extinguish both. Motor cars are now the special feature. All this has, of course, been brought about by that powerful factor, competition, and the proprietors have been compelled to spend large sums in the equipment of their richly-bedizened concerns.
And now to the principal feature of the Fair - the roast. Six oxen and about a dozen porkers were spitted, and close upon 6.30am the proceedings commenced, being watched with great interest throughout the morning by townspeople and visitors. Some had their doubts as to whether the caterers had not provided a little too bountifully for the occasion, but their fears in this direction were soon dispelled, for by midday the ribs of the majority of animals were laid bare.
In the evening confetti fights were indulged in, and the fun of the fair was kept up to midnight. Even then many people displayed an unwillingness to proceed homewards and the proprietors of the various amusements pleaded in vain to be allowed to give another "turn". Many of the smaller shows left early on Sunday morning, but others delayed their departures till the following day, a large number going in the direction of Banbury”.