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Mop Fair Marlborough High Street

Fed up with Marlborough’s Mop Fair High Street closures? Blame ‘Health & Safety’, traders told

When fairground ride operators move their sideshows into Marlborough High Street on Friday morning – almost 24 hours before Wiltshire’s last-remaining Mop Fair opens to the public – the manoeuvre will spark a biannual barrage of complaints from some shopkeepers about lost trade.

But for the first time, the reason for the early closure of High Street has been revealed. And the tabloids’ favourite – Health and Safety – is to blame.

At a recent, historic meeting between members of the Showmen’s Guild and representatives from Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, traders were told that each and every fairground ride has to be examined by health and safety officers, while the police and fire brigade also have to run site checks.

And as health and safety officials don’t routinely work on Saturdays, the fair has to be in place by Friday afternoon for inspection.

Organisers and traders also reached consensus over pollution caused by diesel generators at the event.

Paul Shimell, a Chamber of Commerce committee member and franchise holder of Specsavers opticians, told Michael Geraghty and William Whitelegg of the Showmen’s Guild that some shops were forced to close early to prevent stock spoil from the fumes.

The Guild assured traders that there were plans to use fewer, more efficient generators this year, while the installation of electric charging points along Marlborough High Street would reap rewards in future years. 

The Chamber of Commerce and the Showmen’s Guild agreed that the round-table discussion – organised by Marlborough Town Council – had been useful, and that regular liaison should continue.

The Marlborough Mop – traditionally a hiring fair where domestic staff would carry a mop to signify their trade – takes place on the Saturday before and after Old Michaelmas Day on October 11.

If October 11 falls on a Saturday, the Little Mop and Great Mop are held two weeks apart.

This year’s events take place on Saturday 5 and 12. Marlborough High Street will be closed to traffic from noon each Friday, and the fun starts at noon each Saturday.