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Local History

You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > Pack Monday Fair

Pack Monday is held on the first Monday after October 10

Huge crowds come for Pack Monday

Pack Monday Fair

Sherborne's huge annual street market is an old tradition, but how many of the day's thousands of visitors know the reasons behind it?

Like many Dorset towns, Sherborne has its weekly markets, but there's no other market like the one on Pack Monday.

It's held every year on the first Monday after October 10, and four of the main streets in Sherborne are filled with hundreds of market stalls and street traders, and thousands of people visit.

But how many of these visitors know anything of the reasons behind Pack Monday?

And why does it have to be a Monday, and in particular the Monday after October 10?

Sherborne Abbey

Sherborne Abbey

An annual tradition

Some people I asked had no idea, but most knew the day was a long-held local annual tradition.

Others thought it was vaguely connected to the Abbey while a few were able to be more specific.

A woman called Barbara, standing on the door of the shop she works in, told me: "It celebrates the day they finished building the Abbey."

Various explanations

The Tourist Information office in Sherborne proved to be the most helpful - in fact, they offered several possible reasons.

The first, they explained, is indeed to do with the completion of building work on the Abbey, in 1490.

It's suggested the term Pack Monday is because the workers 'packed up' their tools.

The second reason explains the connection with the date, the first Monday after October 10.

Michaelmas

October 10 is Old Michaelmas Day, and Michaelmas is the feast of St Michael the Archangel, and associated with the beginning of autumn.

The Fair begins at midnight with a procession

The Fair begins at midnight

The folklore goes that local servants and farm labourers would all gather in their local market town and present themselves for employment to those looking for staff, and a celebratory fair would follow.

Known in other parts of the country as Mop Fairs or Hiring Fairs, in Sherborne it came to be known as a Pack Fair, which is thought to have come from 'pact', meaning agreement.

Pack Monday always begins with a midnight procession through the streets of Sherborne by 'Teddy Roe's Band', a group of locals making as much noise as possible by blowing horns and whistles.

It's thought that this ritual goes back to pagan times when the noise was said to frighten away the devil.

However, another explanation for the procession is that it commemorates the completion of repairs to the Abbey following a fire. The foreman overseeing the work was Teddy Roe, and when finished he and his workmen celebrated by marching through the town.

So as with many ancient traditions, the real reasons behind them can vary and are lost or confused over the years.

But the Pack Fair itself seems established enough for it to continue for many years to come, no matter how unsure people may be of its origins.

last updated: 15/10/2008 at 14:22
created: 15/10/2008

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