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Hiring Fairs
Dairy maids would carry a stool or pail Many towns and villages used to hold an annual statute or hiring fair. It was a kind of jobs market. People looking for work as farm servants or labourers were matched up with an employer.

The fairs dated from a time when agricultural labourers had to offer themselves for hire by law.

The story began over 600 years ago when the Black Death led to a severe shortage of agricultural labour. Anyone with experience of farm work was able to demand excessively high wages.

Officials acted quickly. They passed a law known as the Statute of Labourers. Men and women were ordered to accept offers of work at the old rates of pay. They had to be hired in public to prevent secret deals with desperate employers.

Workers also had to turn up with their tools or symbols of trade. Somebody was sure to notice if a girl with a besom was offered a dairymaidís wage.

Shepherds held a crook or a tuft of wool, cowmen brought wisps of straw, dairymaids carried a milking stool or pail and housemaids held brooms or mops - this is why some hiring fairs were known as mop fairs.



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