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Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 14:21 UK
Sherborne's Pack Monday tradition

Sherborne's annual Pack Monday Fair is a well established annual tradition - but its origins are less certain.

It is held on the first Monday after October 10, and the main streets in Sherborne are filled with stalls.

But how many of its visitors can explain the real reasons behind it?

Ahead of this year's event on Monday 12 October, BBC Dorset went along last year to try and find out the true meaning behind it, and found several possible explanations.

Sherborne Abbey on Pack Monday

An annual tradition

Some theories claim Pack Monday's origins relates to the Abbey's construction, while others say it relates to Michaelmas.

The origins of Pack Monday are unclear, and the people who visit the fair do not appear to know either.

Most only knew that the day is a long-held local annual tradition.

Others thought it was vaguely connected to Sherborne Abbey, while a few were more specific.

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

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 is 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 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 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.

A balloon seller at Pack Monday
It is hoped the fair will continue for many years to come.

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 is 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 damaging fire.

The foreman overseeing the work was Teddy Roe.

When Teddy 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 true origins.




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