King's Norton's "Mop" Fair

In 1616 James I granted to King's Norton the right to hold a market on Saturdays; two fairs, one on the vigil of St. Mark and the two days following, and the other on the 5th August and the two days following; and a statute fair on the first Monday in October. The market was discontinued about the end of the 18th century, and the fairs were obsolete by 1888, but the statute fair, known as the "Mop" was still held until 1919.

The object of the "Mop" was originally the hiring of agricultural workers and domestic servants, and the origin of the name is said to be that house- maids who attended the fair in the hope of being hired carried mops and pails. The hiring took place in conjunction with a country fair at which the roasting of an ox was a great feature.

In the late 18th and early 19th century Birmingham people used to attend the "Mop”, travelling by barge on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal. The return fare from Chappell's Wharf in Birmingham to King's Norton was 1s. 0d. Later, with the coming of the railway, even more people came from Birmingham to enjoy the fair; and the influx of visitors, combined with the fact that the public houses - of which there were many - could remain open all day, caused the "Mop" to fall into disrepute.

The fair was held on and around The Green, and, naturally, it caused considerable damage to the grass. This was probably one of the main reasons for surrounding The Green with posts and chains. After this was done, the "Mop" was moved to Town Field, which was situated behind the Old Square, but on this site it did not enjoy much success, and it was abandoned in 1919.

There were several attempts to revive the "Mop", and several sites were tried, including the field behind the Navigation Inn, the northernmost part of King's Norton Park, and the Paper Mill Fields near the Canal, but these were not really successful.

Then, in 1953 the traders around the Green decided to revive the "Mop" in honour of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Permission was obtained to close off the roads on the east and northwest sides of the Green for the day, and the "Mop" was held on these roads and on the service roads and the pavements. Nothing was allowed on The Green itself, but now that the "Mop" was back in its traditional home it was successful again, and has taken place on the first Monday in October ever since. In 1969, members of the King's Norton Round Table took over much of the running of the "Mop" (see second newspaper cutting).

Nowadays, the "Mop " is a typical fair, with roundabouts, dodgem cars and sideshows. However, in spite of its success, it is not really popular with the local residents any more than it was in the 1880's. The noise continues until late at night, traffic is chaotic, and parking is virtually impossible. At the last "Mop”, the number of policemen in evidence made it obvious that they were prepared for trouble - the rowdy element still comes to King's Norton "Mop".

Copy of an item in a newspaper of the 1880's.

"The King's Norton Saturnalia is growing worse. Hardly a man or woman with any pretensions to self-respect could be seen at the Mop last Monday, and the thousands were composed of shouting hobbledehoys, screaming girls, drunken men, and shouting women. They swarmed from the station in hundreds during the day, and as night drew on the crushing, the swearing, created indescribable confusion.

"A great mass of people stood round the roasting ox, which had been frizzling all night before a huge fire and then was cut up for the delectation of the crowd. A basket of slices of bread stood near, and two or three hot red-faced men with carving knives sliced away at the haunches, the ribs, and the shoulders, putting a slice of meat between two slices of bread and selling the tasty morsels at four pence a piece. Dozens of hands were held out at a time during the busy part of the day and two carcasses could have been sold had they been cooked.

"The public houses were packed and customers had to fight their way in and out, treading on floors wet with slopped beer. Some disgraceful scenes took place in one part or another of the vicinity during the day and night. The general proceedings offered a spectacle of debauchery, drunkenness, noise and blasphemy, in strong contrast to the ordinary quiet life of King's Norton."

Copy of item in "The Birmingham Mail" dated 6th October 1969.

"The traditional "Mop Fair" at King's Norton got off to a super sunshine start today, with crowds of visitors, and ox and pig roasting - and two beauty queens

The girls, who both helped Midlands television personality Tom Coyne to carry out the opening ceremony are Miss Angela Turner, of Alvechurch, who was a finalist in the "Miss United Kingdom" contest, and Mrs. Sylvia Gough, of King's Heath. Mrs. Gough, mother of three children, won the "Miss Mini Mop" beauty contest held to mark the eve of the fair.

Together, they took a ride on the fun-fair cars, toured the stalls laid out around King's Norton village green for the day of the fair, and helped cut the first smoking slices from the spit-roast ox.

The fair, originally a hiring fair for local servants and labourers, was first held in l6l6 in the reign of James I. It was revived in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II. This year, for the first time, the "mop" is being run by local traders and members of King's Norton Round Table". Jan Hourigan (Mortiboys)

In James I reign began a craze of witch-hunts, addressing people's fear of the devils disciples. Any type of mark on the body was an example of evidence of this and the women who were found guilty were burned or hanged. In a petition by John Field, Bailiff and Yeoman "seized the goods of Anne Wathan and Jane Smith as they were accused of witchery. They were tried, found guilty and put to death" - possibly by being burnt on the village green.