The estimated population of England prior to 1348 was 4 million. Between the years 1348 to 1350 the disease known as the Black Death struck the country and left between 30 and 50 per cent of the population dead. The disease re-visted England a further six times after 1350.
This decrease in population meant that there were fewer workers to carry out the work. High demand with a shortage of supply allowed people to ask for more and more money for their work. People were also prepared to travel to different areas to seek higher paid employment.
In 1351 in an attempt to stop this situation the Statute of Labourers was passed by King Edward lll and his parliament. The Statute imposed a maximum wage which workers could claim and made it obligatory for all able bodied men and women to work.
Parts of the country staged protests against such harsh restrictions. The most famous is known as the Peasants' Revolt or Wat Tyler's Rebellion which took place in 1381.
Against all of this tension and unrest Mop Fairs (or Hiring or Statute Fairs) were introduced in 1351 where the High Constables of the Shires would declare the rate of pay for the coming year. Because vast numbers attended these fairs they quickly became events where employers could hire workers. Along with these crowds came entertainers and merchants.
Mop Fairs continue today, not for the hiring of workers or the setting of wages, but to provide entertainment. Amongst those still in existence are the Tewkesbury Mop Fair taking place in Nelson Street on the 9th and 10th of October 2014. click here to visit the site.
The Stratford-upon-Avon Mop Fair held on the 10th and 11 of October 2014 please click for more information.
The Warwick Mop Fair click here to visit their site
Authors Ian and Marie.