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Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair

A quick look at the history of the Mop Fair

Rebekah Owens
Mop Fair

The Mop in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1916 looked to be a very subdued affair. Alcester had cancelled its Mop that year, with only a solitary sweet stall to represent its former spectacle. The Light Restriction Order had been the reason for the cancellation and Stratfordians had similar concerns. ‘Just at the time the fun becomes fast and furious’, reported the Herald, the lights will have to be quenched. To do otherwise ‘might bring a zeppelin about our ears’.

In the end, the event on the 12th October ‘was shorn of much of its glory’. There was, according to the Herald, not as much as there used to be: ‘Instead of six or eight bullocks and ten or twelve pigs being spitted’ there was only ‘one solitary porker’ being roasted. The usual dozens of showmen who ‘made a point of attending the Mop for years were on this occasion conspicuous by their absence’. Any visitors had to settle for ‘a few roundabouts and other stalls which were pitched in Rother Street and Wood Street’.

Still, Stratfordians were nothing if not resilient in these difficult wartime days. The ‘deficiency’ was made up by the townspeople who took matters into their own hands and organized exhibitions, set up stalls themselves and provided entertainment, all in aid of the Soldiers’ Comfort Funds and other local charities.

Visitors were invited to the Shakespeare Galleries where Sergeant Thackeray had organized an interesting exhibition of war souvenirs. Here you could see some glass from Ypres cathedral and an old Turkish weapon discovered when trenches were being dug at Gallipoli.

There were plenty of stalls to peruse. Local people ran fruit stalls and Florence Flower, the Lady Mayoress and Amy Dickinson offered a dazzling array of ‘fancy articles’. Frank Organ, the undertaker and his wife were running a vegetable stall in Wood Street, perhaps outside his business premises at number 40a.

There were also fun and games. For a penny, you could have a go at ‘knocking nails into the Kaiser’. Unsurprisingly, this was a very popular game and ‘yielded’, according to the Herald, ‘ a harvest of coppers’.