Warwick Mop Fair
The Warwick Mop Fair tradition began when King Edward III granted a legal Charter that it be held in the town centre. A number of significant towns in the midlands area also have similar Charters including Stratford upon Avon, Southam, Banbury, Tewksbury, Alcester, Evesham, Abingdon and so on. Each year these towns have fairground attractions in their town centres and surrounding streets.
Warwick Mop is held on the Friday and Saturday following the 12th day of October, with the 'Runaway Mop' held the following Friday and Saturday.
When the Mop first started nearly seven hundred years ago the event was a hiring fair for local labourers and employers to meet in a social setting. Workers would be hired for a trial period of a week; hence the Runaway Mop the following weekend allowing either party to back out if they were unhappy with the arrangement. Once the formalities were over, the labourers could spend their token wage (given by the new employers) at the stalls gathered for the occasion or the local pubs. However if new employment was taken at the Runaway Mop the contract was binding until the next year's event.
The title 'Mop' has been a subject of debate by historians for a number of years. The most likely link is that labourers wore a symbol to identify their trade. These meant employers would instantly recognise the trade of those wanting work. The symbols were believed to have been known as 'mops'.
The pig roast, or ox roast as it used to be, provided food for the visiting crowds and a nice fire to warm by on a cold winter's day. Today the pig roast remains and is one of a number of ways the Mop fairs raise money for the Mayor's charity. The first slice of meat is auctioned and often re-auctioned a number of times to increase the charity donation made. The bidders include councillors, townspeople and showmen.
As the industrial revolution came along rides became a feature of the Mops around the midlands. From primitive beginnings pedalled by the riders themselves, to steam-powered, electrically-lit roundabouts and on to the high tech, state of the art rides of today. One of the Mop's unique features is how it constantly adapts in line with modern life yet still retains the traditional value of entertainment for the whole family, from children to grandparents.
The Town Mayor officially opens the Mop at 12 noon on the first Saturday supported by the Town Crier and representatives of the council in their traditional attire. The Mop Charter is read aloud and then the Mayor takes a tour of the fair granting free rides to anyone present at the time. It is often customary for the Mayor to participate in the free rides.
In keeping with many town centre fairs across the country, Warwick Mop has, over the years, had its opponents wanting the fair moved, but true Warwick residents have responded with great support of the event. This coupled with a supportive council and the hard work of the generations of showmen has led to the continuation of the event for what is now almost 700 years.