Mop Fair
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Mop Fair

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. The 'tassle' worn on their lapel was the emblem of the employee's trade and was known as a 'mop' - hence the term "mop fair". Hiring fairs were also known as statute fairs (or statutes) because an Act of Parliament of 1677 endorsed the yearly bonds made between masters and servants at them.
Employers would move amongst them discussing experience and terms, and 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 29 September but mop fairs were tied to the seasons and the harvest, not the calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752 and eleven days dropped from that year, events associated with the end of the harvest moved eleven days later to 10 October. This date is known as "Old Michaelmas Day" and since 1752 has been the date mop fairs take place.
A Retrospect


October 6 Ledbury October Fair was held, when John STUDT, the well known public caterer, of South Wales, occupied the Cattle Market, where he remained during the Week, and on the Friday the whole of the proceeds of his circular switchback were given to the Cottage Hospital.


October 12 Ledbury " Michaelmas " Fair was held.


October 11 Michaelmas Pleasure Fair was held.


October 9 Ledbury Michaelmas Fair Mr. John STUDT gave the whole proceeds of his Gondolas on the Friday evening, £21 15s. 3d., to the Cottage Hospital.


October 8 Ledbury Michaelmas Fair; falling off in the attendance and in the number of amusements.


October 14 Ledbury October Pleasure Fair; falling off in the attendance and in number of amusements.
1914 - October Fair
Ledbury's annual Pleasure Fair was held on Tuesday last. Unfortunately the weather proved unfavourable, rain falling most of the latter part of the day. The attendance was, perhaps, a little below that of last year. The pleasure fair was comparatively small as has been the case for some years past.

There is no doubt about the fact that the fair of to-day is not the fair of years ago. The older inhabitants of Ledbury will probably remember the time when High street was crammed with sets of roundabouts, waxworks, peep shows, swings, shooting galleries, etc., not to mention WOMBWELL's menagerie. Now the Cattle Market is the centre of attraction, and STUDT's amusements, which have visited Ledbury for many years past, do "a roaring trade." The result is that the greater part of the crowd is diverted to the Cattle Market, and High Street is easily passable for vehicular traffic. A striking comparison to days gone by when it took several minutes for a vehicle to forge its way through the surging mass.

High Street, as usual, presented an animated scene from noon onwards. The usual resident tradesmen's stalls were in evidence, and in accordance with custom there were a few itinerant vendors, but these were not so numerous as was the case last year. In taking a survey of the town during the "hub-bub" of the fair it is necessary to start from the Upper Cross end then proceed down High Street. An old inhabitant would be struck by the difference in the appearance of the Upper Cross as compared with former years. The singers of the "good old songs," generally accompanied by the melodian or concertina, have long since taken their departure. There are, however, several things which remain with us. There were eatables in galore, including the crisp gingerbread, but that toothsome delicacy (?) the savory sausage, was absent this year.

To come back to the present the toy stalls again gladdened the hearts of the little ones, and which seem to recall to the older generation the times when High Street was a complete pandemonium. There were the customary crowds around the "cheap Jacks," whilst a man who claimed to be able to perform marvellous feats with the aid of chains attracted considerable attention. Near the Town Hall a gentleman in a top hat and a massive gold albert was shouting at the top of his voice that he had been sent here by a well-known firm to sell watches almost for nothing in order to advertise their wares. A large crowd had gathered around the "cheap Jack." "Here's a gold watch," he says "that is honestly worth five guineas." In order to sell the watch he includes several other articles in the bargain, and offers the lot, say, for 30s. - "a ridiculously low price, less than the value of the watch." There is a rush for these bargains, but when they get the articles in their possession patrons are not quite so satisfied with them as when they saw them at a distance. The buyer does not hesitate to show his dissatisfaction, and speaks plainly on the subject. The auctioneer replies by saying that he "can use his fists as well as sell watches, and if the buyer does not stop interrupting him he will have much pleasure in coming down from his rostrum and settling with him." This is generally sufficient for the buyer, who departs in peace.

The next thing to attract attention was the men with the crockery and tin wares, who appeared to be doing. Proceeding down Bye Street one missed the old familiar and chubby faces of the "ship-wrecked mariners," turning out yards of sacred music, accompanied by oft-repeated salutations for help. There was only one member of this society present this year. As the Cattle Market was approached the steam from the fried fish and potato stalls reached one's nasal organs from all directions, and the sounds of Mr. STUDT's grand organ attached to the switchback struck upon the ear. On entering the cattle Market you were probably pelted with confetti or received a wisp with a paper brush. The "lady teasers" are enjoying a revival, and were much in evidence on Tuesday. There were several side shows and shooting galleries. For the modest sum of one penny one could see the "biggest body in creation" or the "smallest lady in the world." Outside the tent of the former a showman could be seen waving a portion of what was claimed to be the lady's wearing apparel in order to give intending patrons some idea of the huge proportions of this female and of the sight which awaited them .... There were .... on the ground .... and other giddy .... versions, all of which did a good business.

The switchback of course came in for the most patronage. The Hoop - It has become a thing of the past, judging from the amount of business which .... be doing. One must not forget the fortune teller, who probably reaped a good harvest of coppers. The photographers seemed to be doing little business. The familiar catch pennies could again be seen catching the "green ones." The game was watched for a considerable time, and the pennies went fast, but the watches, prominently displayed at the back of the stall, stopped where they were. The fair was kept up until after midnight, despite the rain which fell at frequent intervals.

During the day open-air prayer meetings were held near the Town Hall. The Church Room was used largely by visitors who required a rest. Papers, etc., were provided for their use, and they were able to pass a quiet hour.
Date Unknown
[Ledbury Fair]
( Ann ROGERS Collection )
Date Unknown
[Ledbury Fair]
( Ann ROGERS Collection )
Date Unknown
[Ledbury Fair]
( Ann ROGERS Collection )
1950s Early - Mr PONTER coming through the fair fetching a parcel from the Stringworks in Bye Street to take back to the shop on the top cross. The stall behind him looks like the one Alfie used to run.
[Ledbury Fair early 50s]
( Chris PONTER Collection )
Chris Ponter - Remember Alfie, You bought tickets and had to match a Christian and Surname

Chris Ponter - It had a left and right board which used to revolve the left board had Christian names and the right board Surnames the board used to spin round and as it did the different names used to light up when it came to a stop a Christian name and Surname would be left illuminated if you had the correct name on your ticket you won. Not a stall for kids because all the prizes were crockery / sheets / ornaments etc

Claire Ellis- I remember the name, the stall and the huge baskets of crockery but not the format of the game. I remember standing there for what seemed like hours with my mum

VB - There was dolls on there too china ones I have one still that my grandad got for me she is 59 yrs old now lives in a box under the bed beacuse my children allways said she looked like that doll from the film chucky

Pauline Preedy - My mum and aunties Dot and Peg knew the fair people well, Alfie used to send Christmas cards every year. My aunty Dot was ill one year and could not go to the fair and Alfie asked my sister Wendy to take him to her place, she lived on Deer Park then, half way down he said his legs were aching, our Wend said we have'nt gone far, he said yes but mine are only little, he was great

Chris Ponter - Alfie was a dwarf he ran the stall I described above. His stall was usually sited outside the Seven Stars

ED - Dad has 2 sets of crockery from there so my sis and I had one each and I've still got a few plates and bowls from my set

Fiona Penwarne - Was there another person called Manny as well? I know that one of the fair men used to stay with us at fair time but I don't think it was Alfie tho' we knew him well

Laura Jones - Alfie was lovely, when dad worked temporary for gulf oils we had to take diesel to gloucester. The fair was overwintering there and Alfie came out to see us when we arrived. He was a great man really part of Ledbury fair. I loved the fair then. The stall selling china, mum always bought a new service from there every year. The lino stall, the peacock remember that?, hook a duck, waltzers, dodgems, candy floss, darts, it was wonderful then so bright and somewhere everyone got together every year.

1965 - All the fun of the fair filled Ledbury streets on Monday and Tuesday.
( Ledbury Reporter )
1965 - It was October Fair time again, but, judging by their expression having fun can be such a serious business.
( Ledbury Reporter )
Oh those bikes, loved that ride...ED


Was it called the Noahs Ark...HCB

Chris Ponter - Yes noahs ark, when you got brave you would stand up back leaning against the bar

Don't think kids this age woud go on such a tame ride these days!...CE

Chris Ponter - That was the fastest I think then they brought the walzers in

Loved the Waltzers - don't think I could stomach them now though!...CE

They had those chairs in chains that swung - WAY OUT, my mum wouldnt let me go on them..SD

Oh yeah Carole if you could stand by the bar you were known as really cool lol...HCB

Yes the ride was called speedway...PH

Just found this pic, remember those bikes at the fair, loved them, does the fair still come to Ledbury in Oct?...BB

Chris Ponter -Yes it's still here every year Bridget one of the things that is still here lol

Thanks Chris, loved the fair, remember getting so excited watching them set it up and then so disappointed when it went!...BB Remember Dad taking me on the octupus.... I was petrified!!...BB Jo Edge - The Octopus was always down Bye street if I remember, and the Waltzers by the market house and the guy used to shout ' scream if you wanna go faster' and they would slap the back of the waltzer and frighten us !! They just used to laugh!!

Gosh, remember that Jo.I loved the fair , highlight of the year!!...BB Jo Edge - Yes those were the days, we had the 3 main rides The Octopus, The Waltzers and The Bumper Cars. Couldn't do it now, we had no fear in those days!!!!

I loved hook a duck and roll a penny, you always won a prize with the hook a duck!!!...BB

Jo Edge - Usually it was a goldfish that you won on hook a duck. I remember the china stall where parents used to buy a basket of china!! Of course there was the Helter Skelter. Then the food stalls, this was the only time you could buy a Toffee Apple or a Candy Floss or a big bar of pink and white nougat !!!!.

Chris Ponter - Don't forget Alfie

Don't remember the helter skelter, remember winning afew goldfish!! Whose Alifie?..BB

Just read previous comment naming this ride as Noahs Ark, which sounds familiar to me, I seem to remember long seats as well as the motor bikes?...

The motorbikes were speedway and noah's ark were the animals...ED

Never liked fairground rides, Yes I'm a scaredy cat...BEM

Loved the noah's ark, used to stand up for the ride thought i was clever ha...DE

I loved the Noah's ark too...DA

I remember Alfies stall you bought a draw ticket, I won a tea set I used for ages music bow plus an enormous teddy David loved it it was bigger than him at the time wait until he reads this it will be aw mum..JG

I remember Alfie and the crockery stall and I loved the penny amusement arcade it was awesome. I went on the waltzers only once and mum came home from work and said to my brother where's Deb and she came upstairs to find me collapsed on my bed with the whirling pits the room was going round and round and i never went on the chuffing things

We used to have competitions to see who could eat and go on the waltzers the most times- 15p a go!!! robbing sods lol..SD

David Gough won me a goldfish from the fair, he handed it over under the clock tower, it lived for ages...JR

Wanted to come down to Ledbury today and tomorrow for the annual fair which I first went to as a 4 year old...ish. I am now too busy to make it, so it looks like a 3 nighter stay to make up for it next October. Love that fair...RM
1970s - Prize winner on Alfies stall
[Ledbury Fair early 50s]
( Stewart Gardner Collection )
Stewart Gardiner - Found this today three of six probably. On the back made in czechoslovakia, prize winner on Alfies stall, late seventies anybody else got anything similar still surviving?

I got a single blue blanket!! prize winner...LB

I won a mustard and brown stripe coffee set. Hideous! Real 70's look. Dad still has it in the cabinet...SS

Alan has got half a tea set (6 cups saucers and plates) bone china, I think it is around 50 years old, think his mam won it...LS

Yes I have a doll my grandad won for me when I was 2yrs old. Still has moving eyes plus head turns when you hold her hand to walk, but she no longer says mamma. My girls hate her and call it the chucky doll, oh and she is now 61yrs of age..VB

1897 - 1980 A Retrospect Tilleys Almanacks - Herefordshire History
1914 - October Fair - ( Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 17 10 1914 ) Transcribed by Donna GORIN
Photographs are credited to the owners where possible
Comments in italics are from the Old Ledbury Facebook Group
Cuttings from Old Ledbury Reporter Newspapers