Markets and fairs


Victoria County History



Elizabeth Crittal (editor)

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'Salisbury: Markets and fairs', A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6 (1962), pp. 138-141. URL: Date accessed: 25 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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A market on Fridays was held in New Salisbury for some years before the right to do so was obtained in 1227. In 1219 the bishop gave the king a palfrey for this privilege; (fn. 1) in December 1222 the sheriff was authorized to allow the bishop to hold a market in Salisbury until a month after Easter 1223, as had been done formerly but had recently been prohibited. (fn. 2) Further grants continued this permission period by period until a fortnight after Easter 1224. (fn. 3)

The city's charter of 1227 included the right to hold a weekly market on Tuesdays. (fn. 4) In 1240, however, the men of Wilton complained that the bishop allowed daily markets in his city, (fn. 5) and in 1275 Old Salisbury and Wilton both complained that several markets were held weekly to the detriment of their own trade. (fn. 6) The sheriff when ordered to prohibit these markets seemed powerless to do so. (fn. 7) In a royal confirmation of an earlier charter the bishop in 1315 secured the recognition of a second perpetual market on Saturdays. (fn. 8) The issue was finally settled in 1361, when it was decreed that the bishop should restrict his markets to Tuesdays and Saturdays, leaving the other four days of the week for Old Salisbury and Wilton. (fn. 9) These two days have remained the market days for Salisbury until 1960. (fn. 10)

The bishop's ownership of the perquisites of the market was formally recognized in his agreement with the citizens in 1306. (fn. 11) By the end of the century they were held of him for life by his official called clerk of the city of Salisbury and the manors of Woodford, Milford, and Keyhaven (Hants), who was commonly called the bishop's clerk. (fn. 12) In the 15th century it is clear, however, that the mayor and the assembly exercised considerable control over the market in such matters as where and at what times the various commodities were to be sold, the prevention of fraudulent practices, and the cleansing and paving of the Market Place. (fn. 13) In the series of disputes with the bishop between 1465 and 1474 (fn. 14) the citizens tried unsuccessfully to obtain the profits of the market and the appointment of clerk of the market for themselves. (fn. 15) Soon after this, however, the city began to take certain market profits, evidently by grant for term of years or life from the bishop's clerk, who held his office in fee. Thus, by 1491 the clerk, John Basket, had granted to the city the profits of all standings in the market which belonged to his office, and the assembly ordered four of its members to let those profits at reasonable rates. (fn. 16) The duration of the city's tenure of the clerk's perquisites is not known. The assembly let the farm of the stalls in the market for four years in 1503, (fn. 17) but by 1512 the bishop's clerk was again dealing with a stall in the fish market, (fn. 18) and in 1537 the old claim that the mayor should be clerk of the market was revived. (fn. 19)

An important section of the market, the stalls occupied by butchers from outside the city, did not belong to the bishop's clerk. In 1480 the assembly ordered that the meat shambles should all be moved to one place at the back of Pot Row so that the entire rents and profits arising from them could be levied by the chamberlains to the city's use. (fn. 20) In 1483 negotiations were authorized with 'my master baily of the city' for a lease (or a renewal of an existing lease) of the butchers' stalls. (fn. 21) It is clear, however, that the city in fact obtained a permanent interest in them, and there are indications that new stalls were built, no doubt on the site decided in 1480. Thus a rental of the 'out-butcher row', called the new stalls, made in 1489 shows that they stood in two rows of twelve each, (fn. 22) and in 1500 the makers of the stalls agreed to surrender them to the city on Lady Day. (fn. 23) Thereafter rents from the stalls were regularly received until the later 17th century. (fn. 24) They were leased for terms of years (fn. 25) until 1552, when it was ordered that they were to be only let at will. (fn. 26) In 1611, when there were twenty-eight stalls, they were leased as a whole, (fn. 27) but they were later let individually again at 10s. a year each. (fn. 28) The stalls were pulled down, 'by persons unknown' as it was later said, in 1683, (fn. 29) and three years later the area where they had been was let on condition that the lessee should pave and maintain it. (fn. 30) The space was regularly let until the last lease expired in 1785 and was not renewed. (fn. 31)

In the controversies with the bishop in the late 16th century the commonalty renewed their claim that the mayor should be clerk of the market, (fn. 32) but the bishop replied that 'no mayor hath ever had the government of the market as clerk but only under the bishop, jointly with the bishop's baylie as deputy to the bishop'. (fn. 33) The bishop's right to the profits was not disputed at that time, (fn. 34) and the picage and stallage of the markets remained in the hands of the bishop's clerk until towards the end of the 18th century, (fn. 35) except for a short period during the Interregnum when they were purchased by the city. (fn. 36) The mayor's powers of supervision remained; for instance, in the 17th and 18th centuries, dishonest coal merchants were suspended by order of the mayor 'as clerk of the market', (fn. 37) and in 1742 an offender against regulations he had made for the better ordering of the market was prosecuted. (fn. 38)

The matter was finally settled in 1784 when, in the course of negotiations about the rebuilding of the Council House, the bishop agreed to surrender the office of clerk of the market, subject to the life interest of the then holder. (fn. 39) The Act of Parliament of the following year providing for the rebuilding of the Council House and gaol confirmed the city's right to appoint henceforth to the clerkship of the market, and to receive all market tolls, fees, and perquisites. (fn. 40) At the same time the opportunity was taken to authorize the levying of small tolls on cattle hitherto exempt. This aroused an immediate protest from the leading tradesmen led by Thomas Ogden of Ogden, Bowles and Wyndham, the bankers, but no action was taken by the council until 1787 when 23 graziers and cattle dealers, who had been boycotting the market, agreed to return if the tolls were removed. (fn. 41) The council, therefore, advocated the suspension of the relevant clause of the Act of 1785, despite the fact that the tolls in question had been promised to Lord Radnor as mortgage for the new Council House. (fn. 42)

At the time of the surrender by the bishop of the right to appoint to the clerkship, the office was held by the Revd. Thomas Henry Hume, later treasurer of the cathedral, who had leased the office to William Tinney. In 1793 Tinney was involved in a dispute over tolls with certain cattle dealers and interested citizens, again headed by Thomas Ogden, but in the face of opposition, which had the support of the council, he withdrew his demands. (fn. 43) This episode coincided with the failure of negotiations which the corporation had begun with Hume to purchase his interest for £400. Hume asked for £700 which the corporation considered excessive. Negotiations were re-opened in the autumn of 1795, and successfully concluded the following year, Hume agreeing to the corporation's price, and Tinney surrendering his rights as tenant. As he was elected Clerk of the Peace the same day, this was presumably a quid pro quo. (fn. 44)

The corporation had now obtained complete control of the markets and the income arising from them, but was apparently still in some doubt about the exact nature of its rights. A petition in 1823 from a number of farmers and corn dealers asking for the removal of the corn market to a new site (see below) was the occasion of the setting up of a committee to inquire into the whole question. (fn. 45) This committee reported that although the tolls from the mayor's market had hitherto been paid to the mayor, this was only the result of uninterrupted usage, and that these tolls, and in fact all the market tolls, belonged of right to the mayor and commonalty. It was recommended that the tolls from the mayor's market should in future be paid to the corporation, and that the mayor should receive £16 in lieu. (fn. 46)

The average yearly net income received by the corporation from the market tolls was £23 in the period 1797–1800, £22 in 1801–4, £25 in 1805–15, and about £43 in 1827–33. (fn. 47) In 1829 and 1830 the auditors referred to a decline in income and recommended that some action be taken. (fn. 48) In 1834 the market committee complained of the conduct of their collector of tolls, and proposed letting the tolls by tender. (fn. 49) Letting, either by tender or auction, continued throughout the remainder of the century; the annual sum raised varied considerably, but was often about £100 for the combined markets and fairs. (fn. 50) The provision of adequate facilities for the market was a slow process. In 1824 it was ordered that standings should be 5 ft. from the pavements, following a complaint from the shopkeepers of Oatmeal Row that people could not pass freely and that men wheeling barrows were apt to break their windows. (fn. 51) As a result of the petition of 1823 (see above) the corn market was moved from the part of the Market Place known as the Mayor's Market or Milk Cross, near the end of Castle Street, to a space in front of the Council House. (fn. 52) The corporation paved the ground and Wadham Wyndham, one of the city's Members of Parliament, undertook to pay for a temporary awning to cover it. (fn. 53) In 1840 a proposal to use the nisi prius court in the Council House as a corn market, by fitting it with a movable floor, came to nothing. (fn. 54) In 1851 a newly-established monthly cheese market had also to be held in a temporary building put up each market-day. (fn. 55)

The provision of more adequate market facilities was finally undertaken by a private body, when the Salisbury Railway and Market House Company was established in 1865. It built the present Market House in Castle Street connected by rail with the station at Fisherton, and providing facilities for the sale of corn, cheese, wool, and other produce. The net yearly income of the corporation from their tolls had not been on average above £100 in recent years, so the company was ordered to compensate the corporation if it fell below that figure from then on. (fn. 56) In fact the stallholders do not seem to have deserted the Market Place for long, if at all, and the market for provisions and small goods held there remains a feature of Salisbury in 1960. The Market House was used for weekly corn, monthly cheese, and yearly wool markets. Of these the first is still held, the second lapsed about 1900, and the third was held until 1939. It was also used for local shows and political meetings before the Second World War. (fn. 57)

The cattle market was held near Barnwell's Cross in Barnard Street in the 15th century and was still held there in the 17th century. (fn. 58) It is not known when it was first held in the Market Place, but it appears to have been there by the early 19th century. Smaller livestock continued to be sold there until 1952, although it had long been the custom for cattle to be sold in private yards belonging to the auctioneers. (fn. 59) In 1952 the cattle market was moved to a site near the swimming bath west of Castle Street; in 1959 a new cattle market with permanent penning for over 5,000 head of stock was built by the corporation on a site north of Scamells Road. (fn. 60)

Of the continuous importance of Salisbury market from the Middle Ages until the present there can be no doubt. Leland noted that it was 'well served' with flesh, and particularly with fish, a great part of the fish taken between the Tamar and Southampton being sold there. (fn. 61) In the late-18th century the fortnightly cattle market was described as one of the largest in the kingdom, (fn. 62) and this was still so in 1851. (fn. 63) In 1888 the market was chiefly for corn and cattle, especially fat-stock; the latter was brought from Devon and Somerset and attracted buyers from a wide area. (fn. 64)

In 1221 the Bishop of Salisbury obtained a grant of a two-day fair at New Salisbury on the vigil and feast of the Assumption (14–15 Aug.). (fn. 65) An extension of the period of this fair to ten days from 14 August was included in the royal charter to the city in 1227. (fn. 66) In 1270 a second fair lasting from 30 September to 7 October was granted, (fn. 67) and in 1315 a third from 24 March to 2 April. (fn. 68) No mention of the holding of the August fair has been found. By the 16th century the bishop seems to have owned three fairs, on the Tuesday after Epiphany (or twelfth day), Lady Day (or lent), and Michaelmas. (fn. 69)

The process by which the profits of these fairs passed to the city is very similar to that traced above for the markets. In 1381 the commonalty granted 'the office of picage in the city as it has been used in the city' for a term of ten years, but it is not clear what authority they had for so doing. (fn. 70) In the later 15th century, however, the city evidently gained temporary control over some of the fairs by grant of the bishop's clerk. The grant of John Basket to the mayor and commonalty in or before 1491 included the profits of all standings in every fair belonging to his office. (fn. 71) Three years later the assembly ordered the serjeants to set out the standings for the Lady Day fair. (fn. 72) The city let the profits of the fairs in 1500 (fn. 73) and 1503, (fn. 74) and were still receiving perquisites from the Epiphany and Lady Day fairs in 1510 and 1513. (fn. 75) As with the markets, however, the city's interest in the bishop's fairs at Epiphany and Lady Day appears to have lapsed soon after this time, and was not revived, except for a period during the Interregnum, until it took over the profits of markets and fairs in 1785 (see above).

The city does, however, seem to have acquired, in an unexplained way, a permanent interest in at least part of the Michaelmas fair. In 1572 a lease of the Greencroft reserved the profits of a fair there to the city, (fn. 76) and in 1580 a Michaelmas sheep fair there is mentioned. (fn. 77) In 1593 the bishop acknowledged that the profits of this fair belonged to the city. (fn. 78) Subsequent leases of the croft in the 17th and 18th centuries continued to include a house called the hurdle house and the profits of a sheep fair there. (fn. 79) In 1771 the corporation of Wilton brought an action against the city's lessee for holding this fair; (fn. 80) its outcome has not been found, but when the Greencroft was next leased, in 1789, the right of holding two sheep fairs yearly was reserved to the corporation. (fn. 81)

Beside fairs belonging to the bishop and the city, a fourth fair in Salisbury belonged to the dean and chapter, and was held in the Close. In 1414 the income from this fair was collected by the chapter clerk of works, and later became a perquisite of the porter of the Close in compensation for rent he had previously received from the choristers. (fn. 82) In 1426 trouble arose between the porter and the 'pyccher' of the city as to picage during this fair, and was settled by an agreement that the porter should pay 1d. for each booth there. (fn. 83) A court of piepowder was held in the Close for the Whitsun fair in 1457. (fn. 84) In 1503 the chapter leased to John Weston, a sacristan, the right of putting up sheep pens according to the ancient custom for the fair held on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Whitsun week in a meadow in the Close by Harnham Gate. (fn. 85) In 1565 the chapter ordered that this meadow should be set apart for the fairs. (fn. 86) Three years later the fair and the 'bailiff's office of the sheep pens' were leased for 41 years, and in 1570 a reversion of the lease for a further 21 years was granted. (fn. 87) In the 17th century the profits of the fair for sheep and cattle held on the Tuesday of Whitsun week were leased separately from the profits of the remainder, which were granted with the office of porter of the Close. (fn. 88)

Before the 17th century only scattered references indicate who frequented the Salisbury fairs and the commodities sold at them. Sellers of cloth were at the Lady Day fair in 1400; (fn. 89) in an Act of Parliament of 1488 the Salisbury fairs were mentioned as among the most important held in the provinces, (fn. 90) and in 1493 it was said that many drapers and other merchants of London regularly attended the Lady Day fair. (fn. 91) When the city owned the fairs during the Interregnum, the Epiphany and Lady Day fairs were for cloth, and the Whitsun and Michaelmas ones for general goods. (fn. 92) In the late 17th century Aubrey spoke of 'a very great fair for cloth at Twelf-tyde called Twelfe Market'. (fn. 93) In 1769 an attempt to move one of the cloth fairs from Epiphany to August, leaving the former for cattle and cheese, seems to have had no effect. (fn. 94) In 1770 the four Salisbury fairs were listed as follows: the Tuesday after 6 January for cattle and woollen cloth; the Monday before old Lady Day (5 April) for woollen cloth; Whit-Monday and Tuesday for pedlary and horses; and Tuesday after 10 October for hops, onions, and cheese. (fn. 95) This list was repeated in 1798, (fn. 96) and with minor variations of date in 1831, when it was said that the fairs were falling into disuse. (fn. 97) The fair in the Close was discontinued soon after this time by order of the chapter, (fn. 98) and by 1851 only the April and October fairs were being held; (fn. 99) a few years later the April fair was described as 'merely of nominal importance'. (fn. 100) In 1853, however, the city established two sheep fairs, on 15 July and 15 October, which were held at the Butts, off Castle Road. (fn. 101) By 1860 they were sufficiently well established to be let, (fn. 102) and have continued to be held until the present time. Of the older fairs the only one to survive has been the October fair, held in the 19th century on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after Weyhill Fair, near Andover. By the later part of the century it was entirely a pleasure fair, although still an important stimulus to trade; fair day was the best day for business in the year, when farmers and labourers came to spend their harvest money, and shopkeepers provided cold lunches for their customers gratis. (fn. 103)

In the 15th century the clothworkers of Salisbury were forbidden to sell their wares outside the city except once yearly at the fair of St. Edmund. (fn. 104) Between 1491 and 1524 the churchwardens of St. Edmund's Church received small sums from the perquisites of this fair, levied from cheese-sellers and other artificers who had standings both within and without the churchyard. (fn. 105) The city received 5d. from the perquisites of the fair in 1497–8, but nothing more is known of it. (fn. 106)


1 E 372/63, Item Wilts; see p. 52.
2 Sic ibidem tenebatur antequam illud nuper prohibuissimus ibidem teneri: Rot. Lit. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 527.
3 Ibid. 542, 561.
4 Ibid. ii. 195. In this year the bishop was excused the fine of 5 marks payable for the right to hold a market at Salisbury.
5 Hatcher, Salisbury, 85; see above, p. 17.
6 Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 279–80; see above, p. 17.
7 Hatcher, Salisbury, 85–6; Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 303.
8 Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, 290.
9 Hatcher, Salisbury, 86.
10 See e.g. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 104, 1472, when the citizens asked the bishop to limit his court of piepowder to those days.
11 Tropenell Cart. ed. Davies, i. 194; W.A.M. xxxix. 205.
12 Hatcher, Salisbury, 79–80.
13 e.g. Hist. MSS. Com. Var. Coll. iv. 193–5.
14 See p. 102.
15 Hatcher, Salisbury, 163, 181–4; the clerkship of the market presumably means the powers of the bishop's clerk over the market.
16 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 173d.
17 Ibid. f. 209.
18 Cat. Anct. D. iii. A 4738.
19 L. & P. Hen. VIII, Add. i (1), p. 439.
20 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 135.
21 Ibid. f. 149.
22 Ibid. f. 169A.
23 Ibid. f. 204; see also f. 198d.
24 Ibid. Chamberlains' accts. 1512–13, 1526–7, 1631, 1662–3.
25 e.g. ibid. Ledger B. ff. 297 (1543), 301 (1546).
26 Ibid. f. 309.
27 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 212.
28 Ibid. Survey and Terrier c. 1611–76, ff. 1, 143, 160–6, ff. 71–84 (2nd nos.).
29 Ibid. f. 170d. (2nd nos.).
30 Ibid. f. 85 (2nd nos.).
31 Ibid. Terrier 1783, f. 46; Rentals 1805–15, 1816–22.
32 Hatcher, Salisbury, 299–300, 302.
33 Sar. Corp. MSS. Box 4, file labelled Charter and Controversy papers.
34 Ibid. Quo Warranto proceedings No. 5, m. 3.
35 Hatcher, Salisbury, 817. In 1619 'a fortnight's market' held by the city on the Greencroft is referred to, 'if it shall be held or continued', but nothing more is known of it: ibid. 335.
36 Camden Misc. vol. xi (Camden Soc. 3rd ser. xiii), 168.
37 C. Haskins, Ancient Trade Guilds and Companies of Salisbury, 242.
38 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger E. (12 May 1742).
39 Hatcher, Salisbury, 535.
40 25 Geo. III c. 93; Hatcher, Salisbury, 536–7; see p. 108.
41 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger F. (14 Oct. 1785).
42 Ibid. Ledger E. (7 June 1785); Ledger F. (13 and 28 June 1787); Hatcher, Salisbury, 539; see above, p. 121.
43 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger F. (17 Oct. 1793).
44 Ibid. Ledger F. (17 Oct. 1793, 24 Sept. 1795, 9 July 1796).
45 Ibid. Ledger G. (9 May 1823).
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid. Accts. of Market Cttee. 1797–1815; App. Rep. Munic. Corps., H.C. 116, p. 1344 (1835), xxiv. There was a loss of £25 in 1833 owing to expense of altering and re-arranging the market.
48 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger G. (13 May 1829); Ledger H. (5 May 1830).
49 Ibid. Ledger H. (14 May and 12 Nov. 1834).
50 Ibid. Council Min. Bks. passim.
51 Ibid. Ledger G. (30 Apr. and 25 Sept. 1828).
52 'Bounded on the N. by the Pillory Post and rails, on the S. by the Butchers' Market and extending in length from N. to S. 32 ft. and in breadth from E. to W. 172 ft.: ibid. Ledger G. (9 May 1823).
53 Ibid. Ledger G. (25 July. 1823).
54 Ibid. Council Min. Bk. 1835–41, 30 March 1840.
55 Ibid. Council Min. Bk. 1841–55, 10 Sept. 1851.
56 19 and 20 Vic. c. 93.
57 Salisbury and Winchester Jnl. 5 Jan. 1951.
58 See p. 79.
59 Sar. Corp. MSS. Markets and Fairs Cttee. Min. Bk. 1875–92, 26 May 1880, 25 Feb. 1885.
60 Salisbury and Winchester Jnl. 19 June 1959.
61 Leland Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, i. 259.
62 Univ. Brit. Dir. (1798), iv. 554.
63 T. W. Rammell, Report on the Sanitary Condition of Salisbury, 15.
64 Royal Com. on Market Rights, vol. iii [C5550-ii], p. 332–4, H.C. (1888), liv.
65 Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 466.
66 Hatcher, Salisbury, 730.
67 Ibid. 736; Cal. Chart. R. 1257–1300, 139.
68 Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, 290.
69 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. ff. iii-iv, undated lists of payments for stalls at these fairs. The Epiphany and Lady Day fairs are mentioned in Chamberlains' accts. for 1509–10 and 1512–13.
70 Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds E.8.ii; picage was the payment for the right to erect a stall in a fair: Spelman, Glossarium (1687), 459.
71 Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 173d.
72 Ibid. f. 182d.
73 Ibid. f. 204.
74 Ibid. f. 209.
75 Ibid. chamberlains' accts. 1509–10, 1512–13.
76 Ibid. Ledger C. f. 23d.
77 Ibid. f. 63d.
78 Ibid. Quo warranto proceedings, no. 14.
79 See p. 85.
80 Hatcher, Salisbury, 528; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger E. (19 July 1771).
81 Hatcher, op. cit. 540; Sar. Corp. MSS. Mkts. and Fairs Acct. Bk. 1797–1802, under 1797.
82 Dora Robertson, Sarum Close, 70.
83 Sar. Dioc. Regy., Liber Niger, f. 25; see also Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 88d. (1425).
84 T. Madox, Formulare Anglicanum, 18.
85 Ch. Com. no. 136777, f. 31d.
86 Robertson, Sarum Close, 141.
87 Ch. Com. no. 136778, ff. 60, 99.
88 Sar. Corp. MSS. Swayne, Scrapbk. p. 73; 'Survey of the Close, 1649', Trans. Salisbury Field Club, i. 136; D. & C. Sar. Leases 1/1/3, no. 28, 1/5/5.
89 Cal. Close, 1399–1402, 78.
90 3 Hen. VII c. 9.
91 Select Cases in the Star Chamber, 1477–1509 (Selden Soc. xvi), 36–8.
92 Hatcher, Salisbury, 437.
93 Aubrey, Nat. Hist. Wilts. (1847), 95.
94 Hatcher, Salisbury, 528.
95 The Traveller's Pocket-Book, or Ogilby and Morgan's Book of the Roads (1770), 294.
96 Univ. Brit. Dir. (1798), iv. 554–5.
97 Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1831), iv. 4.
98 Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1848), where it is said to have been ended 'within the last few years'.
99 Rammell, Report, 15.
100 Visitor's New Guide to Salisbury (n.d. c. 1860).
101 Sar. Corp. MSS. Council Min. Bk. 1841–55.
102 Ibid. 1855–61.
103 Royal Com. on Market Rights (1888), iii. 325–34.
104 V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 126.
105 Churchwardens' Accts. St. Edmund and St. Thomas, ed. Swayne 37, 48, 52, 56, 66. Later receipts from cheesemen are also probably connected with this fair, which must have been held on the open ground north of the churchyard, and thus outside the city.
106 Sar. Corp. MSS. Swayne, Scrapbk., p. 23.