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Abingdon Michaelmas and Runaway Fairs come to town!

Published on:

25 Sep 2017

Abingdon Michaelmas Fair will take place on Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th October from 12 noon to 11pm each day.  The Michaelmas Fair is the longest street fair in Europe, running from the Market Place, through the High Street, The Square and the full length of Ock Street.  This historic street fair has its origins in the shortage of labour following  the Black Death of 1348/9.  The Fair was a hiring fair, the equivalent of today's employment agencies and online job websites. Men were hired for agricultural work at Michaelmas and the Fair provided an opportunity for staff to be hired for the next 12 months.  The Fair remained, at least in part, a hiring fair until the early part of the last century. Nowadays the Fair continues but as a fun fair.  It includes some of the latest state-of-the-art fairground attractions which operate alongside more traditional rides, side-shows and refreshment kiosks.  

The smaller fair, held the following Monday week later and still called The Runaway Fair, provided the opportunity for unhappy employees to change their minds and contracts. 

Both of these Fairs are organised by a professional funfair operator, Bob Wilson's Funfairs. Based in Birmingham, they are responsible for the organisation of many funfairs throughout the country.  Like many of the showmen who attend Abingdon Fair, they have a long tradition of working in Abingdon which goes back many years. 

The Michaelmas Fair starts setting up from 8.30am on Sunday, after which there are road closures and diversions to enable the traditional street fair to take place. There are also closures and diversions the following week for the Runaway Fair. Please click here for a link which will take you to the page which contains these details.

To mark the start of the Fairs, the Town Council is organising the traditional Fairground Service of Blessing and Dedication.  This will take place at 8pm on Sunday 8th October 2017 on the Galloping Horses in the Market Place. All are very welcome.

How are the dates of the Michaelmas Fair worked out?  There is sometimes debate over the dates of the Fair and various rhymes and rules circulate in the town. The correct calculation is very simple:  the Michaelmas Fair commences on the Monday falling first before the 11th of October.  This means that when the Monday actually falls on the 11th then the Fair starts on the 4th.  One of the local "rules" is that the  Fair starts on the first Monday after the first Sunday - this works five years out of seven years - but when Sunday is the 1st, (as this year) or the 2nd it does not!



Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council
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