What happens when you mess with the Mop - funfair reduced to just one ride

Written by Peter Davison.

Mop Fair plans have been thrown into chaos, following a campaign by traders. This year, the traditional Mop Fair, granted by ancient charter, will consist of a solitary children’s ride.

This isn’t Marlborough, but it is happening just 30 minutes’ drive away, in the market town of Cirencester.

For the uninitiated, Cirencester is a bit like Marlborough. Its historic shops are occupied by the same brands (a White Stuff, a Joules, a Fat Face, a Pizza Express) and supermarket shoppers are divided by their loyalties to Waitrose or Tesco.

It also has a twice-yearly Mop Fair: held on consecutive Monday evenings in October. It even shares some of the rides with Marlborough, as operators commute between the two.

Until 1962, the Mop Fair was held in Cirencester’s Market Place, an open space used predominantly for car parking, dominated by its impressive parish church and flanked on three sides by tall, narrow shop fronts.

Then the site of the internationally-important Roman Forum was excavated and redeveloped, and car park was built over it to preserve the structures below. The Mop Fair duly moved on to the car park.

Last year, though, that car park was resurfaced. And – it turns out – the material used to surface the car park is not strong enough to bear the weight of the fairground rides.

So the funfair moved back to the Market Place. But traders were furious, citing significant disruption to their business. This might sound familiar to residents of Marlborough.

This year, reports the weekly printed newspaper, the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard, the funfair will be reduced to a solitary children’s ride, in order to maintain the fair’s 650-year-old charter.

An alternative, its readers are assured, is being sought for 2017.

It remains to be seen whether anything can be done to save Cirencester’s Mop Fair, or whether it goes the same way as its weekly cattle market (closed down, built over), its Art Deco cinema (closed down, built over), its Victorian railway station (closed down, built over), or Rome’s administrative capital in Britannia (closed down, built over).