Wiltshire’s last remaining Mop Fair takes over Marlborough High Street for two Saturdays each October..
The High Street will be closed to traffic from noon on the preceding Fridays, allowing the Showman’s Guild to set up the rides and sideshows that have been a familiar sight to generations of Marlborough people.
Mop fairs were originally held as hiring fairs where farm and rural craft workers came to find jobs. Housemaids carried a mop to signify their trade – hence the name.
They are held on the closest Saturdays to St Michaelmas Day, on October 11. If St Michaelmas Day falls on a Saturday, the fairs are held two weeks apart.
Marlborough’s Mop Fairs are thought to date back more than 250 years, with the transformation from hiring fair to leisure activity taking place during the 1800s.
Every year the High Street closes at Mid-day on the Friday on each of the Mop weekends. Then the trucks trundle down Kingsbury St, set up all the equipment, stalls and rides, and then – it’s ‘Fair Time’. Until late on Saturday when the fair closes, all the visitors disappear and the Fairground folk strike the Fair and within a short time, the High Street is clear again, ready to reopen for traffic on the Sunday morning.
Below is a time lapse video of that whole weekend process, taken in 2014 from the balcony of the Town Hall. Doesn’t take quite 36 hours or more to run……..