TEWKESBURY FAIR SOCIETY
Formed in 1989, the Tewkesbury Fair Society aims to promote and preserve Tewkesbury Mop Fair. The largest street fair in Gloucestershire and one of the oldest fairs in the country, that takes place annually on October 9th and 10th , unless one of these dates falls on a Sunday, in which case the fair is taken back to Friday/Saturday or brought forward to the Monday/Tuesday. Earliest records so far date the origins of the fair to the 12th century.
The Society have presented additional traditional attractions at the fair since formation, be it fairground organs, dancers or showmen's engines. The most famous and fondly remembered to date being the attendance of the late Jack Wharton's "Supreme" in 1993. This was indeed the last notable appearance of the engine, reunited with the Deakin family's equipment, the original owners of "The Finest Engine Built", last seen together at the Mop fair in 1938.
Later years have seen a number of hand turned organs around the town during the fair, helping the society raise around £5000.00 to date for the local hospital.
Close attention is paid to any local planning decisions which may jeopardise the fair, with close co-operation between the local Borough Council and the Western section of the Showman's Guild. A new 10 year agreement was signed in the Summer of 2007 allowing the Showmens Guild to continue with the running of the Mop Fair after the Tewkesbury Borough Council put the running of the Mop out to tender.
Membership of the Society has a joining fee of £5 which includes your first years membership plus a TFS badge and is then £2 annualy payable in October (increased from £1.50 after the 2011 AGM).
The town is also famous for the firm Thomas Walker & Son engineers, makers of some of the finest sets of Gallopers, Cake Walks and Juvenile rides. Sadly the works closed in the 1920's.
Some early pictures of the Society are below, click on the image for a larger view.
About the Mop Fair and how it got its name;
Farm workers, labourers, servants and some craftsmen would work for their employer from October to October. At the end of the employment they would attend the Mop Fair dressed in their Sunday best clothes and carrying an item signifying their trade. A servant with no particular skills would carry a mop head – hence the phrase Mop Fair.
Employers would move amongst them discussing experience and terms, once agreement was reached the employer would give the employee a small token of money and the employee would remove the item signifying their trade and wear bright ribbons to indicate they had been hired. They would then spend the token amongst the stalls set-up at the fair which would be selling food and drink and offering games to play.
Michaelmas Day is celebrated on the 29th September but Mop Fairs were tied to the seasons and the harvest, not the calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 and 11 days dropped from that year events associated with the end of the harvest moved 11 days later to the 10th October. This date is known as "Old Michaelmas Day" and since 1752 has been the date Mop Fairs take place.
Modern Mop Fairs;
Mops are still held in some English towns, though many have died out. To confuse matters some fairs have adopted the term Mop even though they are not held on or near to Michaelmas Day or they are a recent creation.
Mops usually last for 2 days and take over the centre of the town, they attract thousands of visitors. In recent times the Mops have become little more than a funfair with the traditional reason for the fair playing no part. Many of the rides at the Mop are fast, brightly lit and very noisy but traditional rides such as carousels and helter-skelters will still be found though their days may be numbered as visitors more and more ignore them for their more modern competitors.
The following towns have a history of holding Mops and still hold one each year on or around Michaelmas Day. A theme common to these towns is that they were, several hundred years ago, medium sized thriving market towns surrounded by a large number of smaller villages, hence their obvious choice as the location for the Mop
Other Mop Towns include;
Some information taken from wikipedia.org (a useful web resource)
Links to other sites with informaiton and images of Tewkesbury Mop Fair:
A personal account of the fair: http://jamezsa.co.uk/blog/2006/10/11/tewkesbury-mop-fair