The history of the Marlborough Mop Fairs

Photo credit: foundin_a_attic | Flickr

25 September 2020

Posted under: News articles

Marlborough mop

To the residents of Marlborough, the Marlborough Mop Fairs are a familiar event each year, entertaining the town for two weeks. But mop fairs are rare, unique and historic events and the Marlborough Mop Fair is one of the last remaining fairs still running, having originated back in 1204. 

Many people wonder why is called a 'mop fair' when it really isn’t relevant to the cleaning item. The name relates to historical hiring fairs where, during the early part of its history, the fair was a platform for landowners to meet prospective employees, and it was traditional for the job seekers to bring an item that would indicate the nature of their skills. For example, a housekeeper would bring a mop or a brush, while a shepherd would wear a tuft of wool. Once terms were agreed, the employee then would remove the item signifying their trade and replace it with a bright ribbon as a sign they had been hired. 

From the 19th century, the mop fairs evolved, incorporating market stalls, food vendors and entertainment, with the recruitment element being phased out. This resulted in the family-friendly event with fairground rides and attractions that Marlborough folk know today. 

To see when the next Marlborough Mop Fair is planned for and more information about visiting on the day, then head over to the Visit Wiltshire website.


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