Shropshire History

Shropshire

Markets & Fairs

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Markets

 

 

 

In medieval Shropshire, the majority of the population made their living through agriculture and livestock farming. Most lived where they worked, with relatively few in towns. Farmers at first brought their produce to informal markets held in the grounds of their local village church after worship. As settlements grew bigger, their markets grew in size also and became more attractive for offering a wider choice of goods and prices.

 

Markets fall into two categories: prescriptive and granted. Many of the oldest fairs were prescriptive which meant that they had been held “time out of memory”. Other markets were set up by a specific grant from the monarch or lord of the manor. By 1066, the right to establish a market was considered to be a royal franchise only and all such requests were supposed to be made to the monarch. However, it wasn’t until the 13th Century that monarchs began to crack down on this and royal grants were then recorded on the charter rolls. These royal grants are detailed and specific, naming the grantee and the day of the week for the market. The location of the market was noted, usually at a manor belonging to the grantee. A typical charter granted a market and a fair at the same place. From the reign of King John onwards, monarchs also insisted on the right to approve any alterations to the timing, duration or location of existing markets. For example, anyone wishing to change the day of the market was obliged to secure a grant recording this royal licence. A town which had a market charter was then known as a market town.

 

The advantage of having a charter was that a new market town could not be established within a certain travelling distance of an existing one. This limit was usually a day's travelling to and from the market. If the travel time exceeded this standard, a new market town could be established in that locality. As a result of this limit, official market towns often petitioned the monarch to close down illegal markets in other towns. These distances are still law in England today. Other markets can be held, provided they are licensed by the holder of a royal charter, which tends currently to be the local town council. Failing that, the Crown can grant a licence called a “Letter Close”. A market charter made it hard for a rival market to set up close by as the charter granted privileges to the town and the traders such as exemptions from tolls and taxes (on particular days) which its rival markets did not enjoy. Those attending the market to buy goods thus gained benefit from lower costs and no tolls. This meant that traders using an uncharted market faced costs for taking goods to and from the market and paying extra trading taxes to the town. A chartered town also benefited by attracting people to the town. The area over which the town's powers extended was clearly defined and this area was known as the borough. By becoming a free borough, this gave the town powers to hold a court, levy fines and create local laws.

 

Markets were originally located where transport was easiest, such as at a crossroads or close to a river ford. Later on, they took place in a wide main street or central market square. These provided room for people to set up stalls and booths on market days. Often the town erected a market cross in the centre of the town to obtain God's blessing on the trade. Market towns often featured a market hall as well, with administrative or civic quarters on the upper floor above a covered trading area. Markets were places where face-to-face trading took place, at a set time and place each week. They were subject to regulation, often laid out in a market charter. Many markets operated as prescriptive markets, having existed “time out of mind” and were subject to the regulation of the local manorial court. The number of markets declined during the 20th Century as shopping habits changed with supermarkets and shopping centres.

 

 

Fairs

 

 

Fairs were like markets, prescriptive and chartered. The same principles apply except that the activity was mainly a feast with entertainment, although the opportunity was taken to sell goods in bulk. They were usually held on religious saints’ days or the anniversary of when a church was dedicated. They were often held on the same day as a market and at the same location but this was not always the case. Many charter fairs date back to medieval times, especially during the 13th century. Although many started with street entertainers and food stalls, nowadays most are the venue for travelling funfairs run by showmen. 

 

Many prescriptive fairs date from Roman times, being holidays where workmen had the day off work. These early fairs were called a “wake” or a “vigilia” and many formed the basis for later chartered fairs. In an era in which communications and travel were difficult and often dangerous, the fair system was a good way for commerce to occur. During the 12th century, many towns acquired the right from the Crown to hold an annual fair, usually serving a local customer base and lasting for two or three days. Dozens of stalls would be established and hundreds of pounds of goods bought and sold. Special courts, called Courts of Piepowders would be established to govern the events and settle disputes; this would include establishing local law and order, imposing systems of weights and measures; monitoring legal contracts and other features of medieval trade.

 

Towards the end of the medieval period, the position of fairs began to decline. One important shift was that some merchants began to establish permanent premises and could supply goods when required. Rather than the customer buying from periodic chartered fairs, they could now buy goods direct from the merchant. As an example of this, the household accounts of Henry III show that the monarch bought 75% of his requirements from the great fairs; by the time of Edward II the majority was being bought directly from the major merchants.

 

 

Gazetteer of Markets & Fairs

 

More information at Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516

 

Place name

Market

Fair

Prescriptive or Charter

 

Day Held

Prescriptive or Charter

Occasion

Date Held

 Acton Burnell

Charter 1269

Henry III to

Robert Burnel

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1269

Henry III to

Robert Burnel

Annunciation of

St Mary

St Michael

(Michaelmas)

 

25th March

at the manor

Charter 1364

Edward III to

Nicholas Burnel

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1364

Edward III to

Nicholas Burnel

29th September

at the manor

Adderley

Charter 1315

Edward II to

Bartholomew de Baddlesmere

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1315

Edward II to

Bartholomew de Baddlesmere

St Peter & St Paul

29th June

at the manor

Alberbury

Charter 1284

Edward I to

Fulk son of Warin.

Friday

at the manor

 

 

 

 

Charter 1284

Edward I to

Fulk son of Warin

St Ciricius &

St Julita

 

16th June

at the manor

 

Charter 1284

Edward I to

Fulk son of Warin

 

St Michael

(Michaelmas)

 

29th September

at the manor

Albrighton

Charter 1232

Henry III to

Ralph de Picheford

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1232

Henry III to

Ralph de Picheford

Translation of

St Thomas

the Martyr

7th July

at the manor

Charter 1303

Edward I to

John la Warre

 

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1303

Edward I to

John la Warre

Translation of

St Thomas

the Martyr

7th July

at the manor

Aston Botterell

Charter 1263

Henry III to

Thomas Boterel

 

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1263

Henry III to

Thomas Boterel

 

St Michael

(Michaelmas)

 

29th September

at the manor

Atcham

 

Charter 1269

Henry III to

Abbot of Lilleshall

St Giles

 

1st September

at the manor

 

Charter 1276

Edward I to

Abbot of Lilleshall

 

St Augustine

26th May

at the manor

Baschurch

Charter 1256

Henry III to

Bishop of Shrewsbury

Tuesday

Charter 1256

Henry III to

Bishop of Shrewsbury

All Saints

1st November

Betton

Charter 1256

Henry III to

Bishop of Shrewsbury

Thursday

Charter 1256

Henry III to

Bishop of Shrewsbury

St Matthew

20th September

Bishops Castle

Charter 1394

Richard II to

John Bishop of Hereford

Wednesday

at the manor

Charter 1394

Richard II to

John Bishop of Hereford

All Souls

2nd November

at the manor

Bridgnorth

Prescriptive

Friday

Saturday

 

Letter Close 1226

Henry III to

Men of Bridgnorth

St Luke

the Evangelist

18th October

Charter 1359

Edward III to

Men of Bridgnorth

 

Translation of

St Leonard

6th November

Burford

Charter 1266

Henry III to

Hugh de Mortuo Mari

of Richard’s Castle

 

Saturday

at the manor

Charter 1266

Henry III to

Hugh de Mortuo Mari

of Richard’s Castle

St Margaret

20th July

at the manor

 

Caus

Charter 1200

John to

Robert Corbett

Wednesday

at Caus Castle

Charter 1248

Henry III to

Thomas Corbett

Translation of

St Thomas

the Martyr

7th July

at Caus Castle

Cheswardine

Charter 1304

Edward I to

Roger le Strange

Monday

at the manor

Charter 1304

Edward I to

Roger le Strange

Translation of

St Swithun

15th July

at the manor

Chetwynd

Charter 1318

Edward II to

John Chetewynd

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1318

Edward II to

John Chetewynd

All Saints

1st November

at the manor

Church Stretton

Letter Close 1214

John (royal manor)

 

 

Wednesday

at the manor

Letter Close 1214

John (royal manor)

Assumption of

St Mary

15th August

Letter Close 1253

Henry III (royal manor)

 

Tuesday

at the manor

Letter Close 1253

Henry III (royal manor)

 

 

 

Invention of

Holy Cross

3rd May

at the manor

 

14th May

after 1752

 

Charter 1337

Edward III to

Richard Earl of Arundel

 

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1337

Edward III to

Richard Earl of Arundel

 

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

14th September

at the manor

 

25th September

after 1752

 

Cleobury Mortimer

Prescriptive

Saturday

Charter March 1226

Henry III to

Hugh de Mortimer

 

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

14th September

at the manor

Charter July 1226

Henry III to

Hugh de Mortimer

occasion to be changed

 

Decollation of

John the Baptist

 

29th August

at the manor

Clun

Prescriptive

Saturday

 

Charter 1204

John to

William son of Alan

St Martin

11th November

 

Charter 1253

Henry III to

John son of Alan

 

St Pancras

12th May

at the manor

Culmington

Charter 1257

Henry III to

John de Breuse

Tuesday

 

Charter 1257

Henry III to

John de Breuse

St Michael

(Michaelmas)

29th September

Eaton

Charter 1227

Henry III to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

Thursday

 

 

Ellesmere

Letter Close 1221

Henry III to

Llewellyn Prince of Wales

 

Tuesday

 

 

Charter 1258

Henry III (royal manor)

 

Thursday

at the manor

High Ercall

Charter 1267

Henry III to

John de Ercalewe

Monday

at the manor

Charter 1267

Henry III to

John de Ercalewe

Nativity of Mary

8th September

Charter 1347

Edward III to

William Careswell

 

Monday

at the manor

Charter 1347

Edward III to

William Careswell

Nativity of Mary

8th September

Hodnet

Licence 1292

Henry III to

William de Hodenet

Tuesday

 

 

Holdgate

License 1222

Henry III to

Thomas Mauduit

Thursday

at Castle Holdgate

Charter 1291

Edward I to

Robert Burnel

Bishop of Bath and Wells

Holy Trinity

Easter Sunday

at the manor

Charter 1253

Henry III to

William Mauduit of Warminster

 

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1291

Edward I to

Robert Burnel

Bishop of Bath and Wells

 

Tuesday

at the manor

Knockin

Charter 1249

Henry III to

John Lestrange

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1249

Henry III to

John Lestrange

Decollation of

St John the Baptist

29th August

Leebotwood

1320

Edward II to

Abbot of Haughmond Abbey

Thursday

at the manor

 

 

Ludlow

Prescriptive

Thursday

Prescriptive

Not known

Not known

Charter 1462

Edward IV to

Burgesses of Ludlow

 

Thursday

Charter 1328

Edward III to

Roger de Mortuo Mari Earl of March and Joan his wife

 

St Katharine

25th November

at the manor

Charter 1462

Edward IV to

Burgesses of Ludlow

 

St Philip and

St James

1st May

Lydbury North

Charter April 1249

Henry III to

Bishop of Hereford

 

Friday

at the manor

 

 

Charter 1249

Henry III to

Bishop of Hereford

Decollation of

St John the Baptist

29th August

Charter October 1249

Henry III to

Bishop of Hereford

 

Tuesday

at the manor

 

Lydham

Charter 1267

Henry III to

Adam de Mongomery

Friday

at the manor

Charter 1267

Henry III to

Adam de Mongomery

St Philip &

St James

1st May

at the manor

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Adam de Monte Gomeri

 

Wednesday

at the manor

 

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Adam de Monte Gomeri

 

St Michael in Monte Tumba

16th October

at the manor

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Adam de Monte Gomeri

 

St Ethelbert

20th May

at the manor

Madeley

Charter 1269

Henry III to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1269

Henry III to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

St Matthew

21st September

Market Drayton

Charter 1245

Henry III to

Abbot of Cumbermar Abbey

Wednesday

Charter 1245

Henry III to

Abbot of Cumbermar Abbey

Nativity of Mary

8th September

Much Wenlock

Prescriptive

Sunday

 

Monday

from 1224

 

Charter 1138

Stephen to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

St John the Baptist

24th June

Charter 1227

Henry III to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

 

Monday

Charter 1227

Henry III to

Prior of Wenlock Abbey

 

St John the Baptist

24th June

Charter 1468

Edward IV to

Men and residents of Wenlock

 

St John the Baptist

24th June

Newport

Prescriptive

Friday

Saturday

 

Prescriptive

Not known

Not known

Oswestry

Prescriptive

Tuesday

Letter Close 1228

Henry III to

John fitz Alan

 

St Andrew

30th November

at Alba Monasterium

Charter 1330

Edward III to

Roger de Mortuo Mari

Earl of March

 

St Philip &

St James

1st May

Overton

 

Letter Close 1230

Henry III to

Ralph de Mortimer

St Matthew

the Apostle

21st September

at the manor

Prees

Charter 1259

Henry III to

Roger Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1259

Henry III to

Roger Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield

St Chad

the Bishop

2nd March

at the manor

Charter 1307

Edward I to

Walter de Langeton Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield

 

Wednesday

at the manor

Pulverbatch

Charter 1254

Henry III to

Philip Marmiun

Monday

at the manor

Charter 1254

Henry III to

Philip Marmiun

St Edith

the Virgin

16th September

at the manor

Quatford

Prescriptive

Not known

 

 

Rushbury

Charter 1283

Edward I to

Hugh Burnel

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1283

Edward I to

Hugh Burnel

St Margaret

the Virgin

20th July

at the manor

Ruyton-XI-Towns

Charter 1308

Edward II to

Edmund Earl of Arundel

Wednesday

at the manor

Charter 1308

Edward II to

Edmund Earl of Arundel

Nativity of

St John the Baptist

24th June

Shelve

Charter 1261

Henry III to

Thomas Corbet

Friday

 

Charter 1261

Henry III to

Thomas Corbet

Invention of

the Cross

3rd May

Shifnal

Charter 1245

Henry III to

Walter de Dunstanvill

Monday

at the manor

Charter 1245

Henry III to

Walter de Dunstanvill

St Matthew

the Apostle

21st September

at the manor

Charter 1315

Edward II to

Bartholomew de Baddlesmere

 

Monday

Friday

at the manor

Charter 1315

Edward II to

Bartholomew de Baddlesmere

 

Holy Trinity

Easter Sunday

at the manor

Charter 1473

Edward IV to

John Earl of Shrewsbury

Tuesday

Charter 1315

Edward II to

Bartholomew de Baddlesmere

 

St Matthew

the Apostle

21st September

at the manor

Charter 1473

Edward IV to

John Earl of Shrewsbury

 

St James

the Apostle

25th July

at the manor

Charter 1473

Edward IV to

John Earl of Shrewsbury

 

St Martin

in the Winter

11th November

at the manor

Shrewsbury

Prescriptive

Tuesday

Wednesday

Friday

Saturday

 

Charter 1094

William II to

Manor of Shrewsbury

St Peter

1st August

Charter 1205

John to

Burgesses of Shrewsbury

 

Not known

Not known

Charter 1267

Henry III to

Men of Shrewsbury

 

St Clement

23rd November

Charter 1309

Edward II to

Men of Shrewsbury

 

St James

25th July

Charter 1327

Edward III to

Men of Shrewsbury

 

St Matthew

21st September

Stanway

Charter 1271

Henry III to

Hugh de Beaumes

Thursday

Charter 1271

Henry III to

Hugh de Beaumes

St Denis

9th October

Stottesdon

Charter 1244

Henry III to

John de Plessetis

Tuesday

Charter 1244

Henry III to

John de Plessetis

Assumption

15th August

Tong

Charter 1271

Henry III to

Henry son of Henry de Pembrig and Orabilia his wife and their heirs

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1271

Henry III to

Henry son of Henry de Pembrig and Orabilia his wife and their heirs

St Bartholomew

24th August

at the manor

Wattlesborough

Charter 1272

Henry III to

Robert Corbet of Watlesburg

Tuesday

at the manor

Charter 1272

Henry III to

Robert Corbet of Watlesburg

St James

25th July

at the manor

Wellington

Charter 1244

Henry III to

Giles de Erdington

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1244

Henry III to

Giles de Erdington

St Barnabas

the Apostle

11th June

at the manor

Charter 1283

Edward I to

Hugh Burnel

 

Thursday

Charter 1283

Edward I to

Hugh Burnel

 

St Barnabas

the Apostle

11th June

at the manor

Charter 1514

Henry VIII to

Sir Christopher Gurney and his wife Joan

 

Thursday

Charter 1283

Edward I to

Hugh Burnel

 

Decollation of

St John

 

29th August

Charter 1514

Henry VIII to

Sir Christopher Gurney and his wife Joan

 

St Barnabas

the Apostle

11th June

at the manor

Charter 1514

Henry VIII to

Sir Christopher Gurney and his wife Joan

 

St Leonard

6th November

Wheathill

Charter 1300

Edward I to

Walter Haket

Thursday

at the manor

Charter 1300

Edward I to

Walter Haket

Holy Trinity

Easter Sunday

Whitchurch

 

Charter 1362

Edward III to

John son of John Lestraunge of Whitchurche

St Simon & St Jude the Apostles

28th October

Whittington

Licence 1219

Henry III to

Fulk fitz Warin

Wednesday

Licence 1219

Henry III to

Fulk fitz Warin

St Luke

the Evangelist

18th October

Wistanstow

Charter 1306

Edward I to

John de Sibeton

Wednesday

at the manor

Charter 1306

Edward I to

John de Sibeton

Octave of

the Trinity

Easter Sunday

Worthen

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Thomas Corbet

Wednesday

at the manor

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Thomas Corbet

St Peter &

St Paul

29th June

Charter 1270

Henry III to

Thomas Corbet

 

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 

14th September

 

Market Halls

 

Markets in the larger towns often had a special building where traders could set up their stalls under cover. This could either be in a large building or a building with open sides at ground level and offices upstairs that would act as a guildhall, town hall or moot hall.

 

Shrewsbury Market Hall

 

The list below shows market halls in Shropshire that are still standing.

 

Albrighton - SJ814040

Bishop’s Castle - SO324890

Bridgnorth - SO716930

Church Stretton - SO453937

Cleobury Mortimer - SO674758

Clun - SO301809

Ironbridge - SJ673035

Ludlow - SO511747

Market Drayton - SJ675342

Newport - SJ745191

Oakengates - SJ697109

Oswestry - SJ290296

Shrewsbury - SJ491125

Wellington - SJ650116

Wem - SJ512289

Whitchurch - SJ542416