Tradition and history fill the streets of Chipping Norton but today’s annual ‘Mop Fair’ is a far cry from the original events that date back to the grim reality of 14th century life.
In the beginning
Bright lights and ferris wheels were scarce when millions were dying from the bubonic plague around 1350, and labour shortages forced employers to scour the country for suitable workers to hire at ‘Statute’ fairs.
While details about these gatherings are vague, it is believed workers would parade their skills by pinning an item to their hats and merrily display streamers after they had been hired.
Employers sometimes formalised deals by paying new staff a small amount of money, which they would spend at nearby stalls selling food, drink and offering various forms of entertainment.
Workers who missed out often returned to the town for another gathering a few days later designed to “mop up” the spare talent left on the job market.
Though hiring fairs continued well into the 20th century, regulations changed the way they operated with wages and conditions set by shire constables from the mid-1500s.
Times have changed
Today, the only similarities that remain are the stalls, games and entertainment visitors enjoy at about 15 Mop Fairs still operating around Britain.
But the town still stops for five days in Chipping Norton every September, with road closures giving space for visitors to let their hair down and mark the historic occasion.
The 2015 Mop Fair kicks off on Wednesday 16 September and runs through to the end of the weekend on Sunday 20 September.
Give a thought to the exploited workforce and labour starved bosses who first gathered nearby in desperate attempts to survive almost 700 years ago.
And enjoy these photos captured from the 2013 event. Click to see full size image.