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The history of the Marlborough Mop Fairs

Photo credit: foundin_a_attic | Flickr

25 September 2020

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 the event 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. 

Unfortunately, the Marlborough Mop Fairs won’t be taking place this year due to ongoing Coronavirus restrictions but we’re already looking forward to 2021. There is no doubt that this 800-year old event will return as soon as it is safe to do so. 

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