Economic infrastructure and institutions
Markets

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Victoria County History

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A T Thacker and C P Lewis (editors), J S Barrow, J D Herson, A H Lawes, P J Riden, M V J Seaborne

Year published

2005

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94-100

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'Economic infrastructure and institutions: Markets', A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 part 2: The City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions (2005), pp. 94-100. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=57312 Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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MARKETS

General Produce Markets

There was a market beside St. Peter's church in the later 11th century. (fn. 1) In the later Middle Ages held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, (fn. 2) it was the principal regional market, and in 1357 was expressly protected by an order against buying and selling within four leagues of the city except in other established market towns. (fn. 3) In fact Chester had no serious rivals as the neighbouring markets were minor and held on days which avoided Chester's own. (fn. 4)

By the late 12th century the main focus of the market lay south and east of St. Peter's in the broad space forming the northern end of Bridge Street and the westernmost part of Eastgate Street. (fn. 5) The area was called a forum in the early 12th century, when it seems to have been fronted by shops and important houses. (fn. 6) Later it contained the pillory and the High Cross. (fn. 7) The original market place evidently incorporated the northwestern corner of Eastgate Street opposite St. Peter's, in the 11th century apparently an open space surfaced with extremely worn Roman tiles. (fn. 8) By the 13th century that site was occupied by the Buttershops, a permanent structure which perhaps superseded temporary stalls. Dairy stuffs were sold there in the early 14th century, (fn. 9) and by the later 15th it was associated with the milk stoups, iron vessels from which milk was sold. (fn. 10) Marketing also seems to have extended west from St. Peter's along Watergate Street, where by the mid 14th century the fish market, also called the Fishboards, was located at the eastern end on the south side, (fn. 11) while on the north side next to the church lay the butchers' shambles. (fn. 12)


Figure 53: Watergate tollhouse, 1818

In the time of Earl Ranulph II (1129–53) a second market was established on the fairground outside the abbey gatehouse in Northgate Street, a location referred to as a forum by the early 14th century and perhaps by the 1220s. (fn. 13) By the later 16th century the main site of the markets had shifted there from St. Peter's, although much selling of perishables still took place at tabulae, either stalls in the main streets or stallboards in the Rows. (fn. 14)

Tolls were charged at the main gates on goods entering and leaving the city, but there were apparently no levies until the 1540s at the markets themselves, the dispersed nature of which would have made collection difficult. (fn. 15) The markets were regulated in the Pentice court (which literally overlooked the original market place in front of St. Peter's) in the late 13th and early 14th century, and thereafter in the portmote or crownmote. (fn. 16) In 1506 the mayor was made clerk of the market. (fn. 17) From the late 15th century the markets were increasingly tightly controlled. (fn. 18) Already in the 1470s there had been complaints that 'foreign' fishmongers (i.e. non-citizens) were trading at places away from the Fishboards, (fn. 19) and from 1506 all fish and flesh was required to be sold in the customary place. (fn. 20) In 1532 the Assembly ordered that all fresh fish be taken to the Fishboards, where the city fishmongers had the privilege of buying and selling during the first permitted hour of trading. (fn. 21)

The establishment of a new common hall in St. Nicholas's chapel adjoining the Northgate Street market place in 1545 marked a further stage in the tightening of corporation control, (fn. 22) and from 1547 all merchandise was required to be sold in bulk there. The wholesale market thus inaugurated was administered by a new official, the keeper of the common hall, who took fees on sales to pay for the upkeep of the building. (fn. 23) In 1549 non-free traders were still conducting clandestine transactions among themselves, and the Assembly forbade foreigners to purchase goods in the common hall, and freemen to buy on their behalf. (fn. 24) Similar orders were repeated at intervals throughout the 16th century but proved difficult to enforce. (fn. 25)

From the later 16th century better arrangements were made for sales at market by suppliers from outside the city. In the late 1570s the Assembly provided a separate shambles for country butchers, and after a brief spell in the Northgate gaol members of the Butchers' company were forced to acquiesce. (fn. 26) In 1586 country bakers were also allowed to sell within the city on market days. (fn. 27) Attempts were made by the Bakers' company in 1623 to suppress a bread market outside the liberties at Gloverstone and allegedly backed by 'great persons'. (fn. 28)


Figure 54: Butchers' shambles west of the Exchange, before 1812


Figure 55: Market traders in Eastgate Street, 1829

Gradually the more important produce markets were resited in Northgate Street. The Assembly established a new shambles underneath the common hall in 1578, (fn. 29) and in 1582 had the former shire hall at the castle dismantled and re-erected in Northgate Street for the country butchers. (fn. 30) The shambles thereafter remained in Northgate Street, rehoused in 1695 in a new building, which by 1728 accommodated both city and country butchers, large numbers of the latter attending on Wednesdays and Fridays. (fn. 31) In 1734 it was joined by the fish market, moved from the site of the medieval Fishboards in Watergate Street. (fn. 32)

In the late 16th and 17th century dairy and garden produce was still mainly sold near the Cross, (fn. 33) but the fruit and vegetable market moved to Northgate Street by 1690, and in 1705 the Assembly acted to prevent the sale of fruit, herbs, and roots at stalls in front of the Pentice. (fn. 34) Butter, poultry, and cheese, however, continued to be sold in Bridge Street in 1741. (fn. 35) Cheese was an increasingly important commodity, sold in both Bridge Street and Northgate Street by the later 18th century. (fn. 36)

In 1758 there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish a toll-free market in Gloverstone, where a few country butchers and bakers had been selling inferior meat and bread since the early 18th century. (fn. 37) Perishable goods such as fruit, vegetables, and fish were still sold primarily in open market, and the corporation tried to ensure that townspeople could buy for themselves before retailers and country carriers. (fn. 38)

In the early 19th century the state of the markets was thought highly discreditable to the city. The flesh and fish shambles clustering around the Exchange were described as nuisances, 'a collection of covered wooden stalls . . . in a very filthy condition', while fruit and vegetables were sold in various places, and poultry and butter in the open in Eastgate Street or Bridge Street. (fn. 39) The growing desire to resite the more offensive markets led to the virtual removal of the shambles from Northgate Street in 1812. (fn. 40) In 1827, however, on the initiative of the mayor, Henry Bowers, provision for the markets was concentrated in Northgate Street and greatly improved. A new shambles with an adjoining market house for butter was erected north of the Exchange, and a new fish and vegetable market to the south (Fig. 56). The poultry market was relocated on the east side of the street, adjoining the bishop's palace, and the potato market was moved from the east side of the Exchange to the west side of Northgate Street near the Northgate. (fn. 41)


Figure 56: Vegetable and fish markets south of the Exchange, c. 1830


Figure 57: Market hall, 1965

The city's growing population meant that the new shambles and butter market were too cramped as early as 1837, and in 1844 the council resolved to remove them from Northgate Street. (fn. 42) The Improvement Act of 1845 empowered it to buy land, replace the existing buildings, and change the times of the markets. (fn. 43) By then, Saturday had become the principal market day. (fn. 44) Eventually, in 1863, the corporation established a general public market, open daily with especially long hours on the former market days. (fn. 45) It was housed in a new building on the west side of Northgate Street (Fig. 57), designed by W. H. and J. M. Hay of Liverpool, consisting of a hall divided into three aisles by cast-iron columns, roofed with cast-iron girders and glass, and with a baroque facade of cream sandstone. (fn. 46) The original arrangement had butchers and provision dealers in stalls around the sides, farm and market garden produce and fruit sold from stalls in the centre, fishmongers in a bay to the right of the entrance, and crockery dealers at the rear of the building. (fn. 47)


Figure 58: Market hall interior, 1962

The market was enlarged in the 1880s. The extensions were designed by J. Matthews Jones (the city surveyor) and W. H. Lynn to harmonize with Lynn's town hall. (fn. 48) The side facing Northgate Street (or, as it was now called, Market Square) was completed in 1882 with a Venetian Gothic front linking it with the town hall. On its opening the old shambles was converted into a wholesale meat and vegetable market. (fn. 49) A second extension at the rear of the market hall was completed in 1886 as a wholesale market for vegetables and cheese. (fn. 50) In 1898 the former Wesleyan chapel at the south-west corner of the market hall was converted into a fish market. (fn. 51) The potato market was evidently moved to the former poultry market next to the bishop's palace in 1863, but seems to have disappeared by the 1880s. (fn. 52)

The Victorian market hall was demolished in 1967, except for a fragment of the facade spanning the entrance to Hamilton Place, and replaced by a new building behind the town hall, linked to the Forum shopping precinct which went up on the site of the old market hall. It was still in use in 2000. (fn. 53)

Livestock Markets

Before 1529 the livestock market was apparently held in Bridge Street and Lower Bridge Street, but in that year it was confined to the latter, presumably because of the nuisance caused by the animals. (fn. 54) Evidently they remained a problem, because in 1596 a proposal was put to the Assembly to take a toll of ½d. for every calf brought to market in return for cleansing the site. (fn. 55) A horse market was held on the Gorse Stacks in the late 16th century, (fn. 56) and a swine market in Eastgate Street until 1640. (fn. 57) The horse market formerly held in Northgate Street was relocated near the Bars in Foregate Street in 1677. (fn. 58) By the 18th century the cattle market was established in Upper Northgate Street, where by 1820 it was obstructing the road. (fn. 59) The 1845 Improvement Act provided for the purchase of land, and in 1850 a new site, the Paddock, was found in George Street, adjoining the Gorse Stacks. The weekly market continued to be held there on Saturdays, and the site was also used for monthly cattle fairs. (fn. 60) The market was roofed over with corrugated iron in 1950 and remained in use until 1970, when a new cattle market was opened by the city council in Sealand Road, adjacent to the corporation abattoir built in 1964 to replace one opened in Queen Street in 1925. (fn. 61)

Corn Market

A corn market existed by 1275, when it was attached to the residence of the wealthy Robert le Barn. (fn. 62) In the 1290s it also contained a malt kiln. Presumably then as later it lay in Eastgate Street, which from an early date also contained Bakers' Row and St. Giles's bakehouse. (fn. 63) By the mid 14th century the market was on the south side of the street and included a Row. (fn. 64)

At some time between 1439 and the 1530s the corn market moved to Northgate Street. (fn. 65) Like the general markets it was tightly controlled by the Assembly after 1506. From 1533 corn could be sold only in the market and after an appointed hour: purchase before 1 p.m. was restricted to citizens buying for their own households, after which the city bakers were allowed to buy for commercial purposes, and only at 2 p.m. was the market thrown open to the 'common people'. (fn. 66) Housed in a new building on the west side of Northgate Street in 1556, it was moved to the east side by the bishop's palace in 1574 but after protests from the chapter the building was dismantled in 1576 and reused elsewhere as a house of correction. A new corn market was erected on the site, (fn. 67) but by 1651 had moved further north near Little Abbey Gate. (fn. 68) In the earlier 17th century the city remained strongly protectionist towards the corn trade, prohibiting private sales from inns or cellars in 1615, and granting the serjeants-atmace control of measuring grain sold in open market in the 1620s. (fn. 69)

After the Exchange was built in the 1690s the corn market was resited on its northern side, north of the butchers' shambles, (fn. 70) but by then the open market in grain was in severe decline. (fn. 71) In 1859 a corn exchange was built by George Chivas on the site of Manchester Hall off Eastgate Street. (fn. 72) Built of red sandstone and Gothic in style, the building included a large top-lit hall entered through a long passage from Eastgate Street, and a range of offices facing the cathedral graveyard, with access from the city walls. (fn. 73) It was managed by a committee of ten subscribers and two representatives of the city council and had space for 40 stands; the weekly Saturday corn market lasted until the early 20th century. (fn. 74) The building itself, which from the beginning was also used for public meetings, lectures, and exhibitions, survived until the 1920s and by 1928 had been replaced by a branch of Woolworth's. (fn. 75)

Wool, Flax, and Linen Markets

The site of the medieval wool and cloth market is unknown, but the trade was probably centred in the selds in Bridge Street and regulated from the old common hall near by in Commonhall Lane. (fn. 76) In 1549 the wool market was established in Northgate Street, presumably in order to be near the new common hall, (fn. 77) and from the 1580s on market days cloth sellers rented the first floor of the common hall itself, which thus became known as the wool hall. (fn. 78)

The flax and linen market had no fixed location. In Eastgate Street in 1657, later in the century it apparently alternated between Watergate Street and Bridge Street, being held sometimes at street level but more often in the Row. (fn. 79) A cloth market was established in Bridge Street in 1705, (fn. 80) but from the mid 18th century the cloth trade was concentrated at the fairs. (fn. 81)

Coal and Lime Markets

In 1677 the coal market was being held in Bridge Street. (fn. 82) It moved shortly afterwards to a site near the Newgate, (fn. 83) but had returned to Bridge Street by 1700. In 1711 sales of coal and lime were removed from the main streets to specialized market places established in Handbridge and between the New Tower and Watergate Street, both of which lay close to the river and so were more convenient for such bulky commodities. (fn. 84) The arrival of the canal in Chester later in the century led to the abandonment of dedicated market places for coal, and in 1840 three of the coal merchants operating in the city had riverside premises, five were by the canal, and one had already moved to Brook Street to be near the newly built railway. Ten years later all but two of Chester's eleven coal merchants and colliery agents were in Brook Street. New premises, the Coal Exchange, were built for them on Black Diamond Street, just off Brook Street, in the 1850s. The Exchange was a plain brick building, domestic in appearance, three-storeyed in the centre and two-storeyed to either side, which contained offices for the different firms. To its rear, approached through two arches in the central block, were extensive coal yards and railway sidings. Further offices were built in the yards in later years. Between 15 and 20 coal merchants, some also dealing in bricks, lime, gravel, and other building materials, were based there until the 1950s. With the fall in the domestic use of coal thereafter their number had fallen to five when the Exchange was demolished in 1970 as part of the inner ring-road scheme. (fn. 85)


Figure 59: Coal Exchange, 1960s

Footnotes

1 Orderic Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. M. Chibnall, iv. 136; cf. Charters of A.-N. Earls, pp. 1–2, 20–1 (nos. 1, 11).
2 Morris, Chester, 553.
3 Blk. Prince's Reg. iii. 261.
4 P.R.O., C 53/85, m. 2; C 53/162, m. 26; C 66/66, m. 3; D. Sylvester, Historical Atlas of Ches. 26–7; Burton in Wirral: A Hist. ed. P. H. W. Booth, 264; Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 288.
5 Lucian, De Laude Cestrie, 47.
6 Charters of A. -N. Earls, pp. 15, 24, 44 (nos. 8, 13, 28).
7 C.C.A.L.S., ZCHD 2/1; P.N. Ches. v (1:i), 12.
8 K. Matthews, Excavations at Chester: Evolution of Heart of City, Investigations at 3–15 Eastgate St., 1990–1, 15–16.
9 C.C.A.L.S., ZQCR 2, m. 1d.
10 P.N. Ches. v (i:i), 23; Morris, Chester, 69, 257, 295–6; King's Vale Royal, [ii], 21.
11 C.C.A.L.S., ZCHD 2/1; Morris, Chester, 295; J.C.A.S. xlv, map facing p. 1.
12 J. Laughton, 'Chester Butchers' (unpublished TS. kindly loaned by author); Morris, Chester, 297.
13 Cart. Chester Abbey, i, pp. 52–3, 251; Charters of A.-N. Earls, pp. 33–4, 232–3 (nos. 23, 231).
14 Morris, Chester, 295; C.C.A.L.S., ZCHD 2/1; ZQCR 5, 11; below, The Rows: Physical Form ('Porches' and Stallboards).
15 V.C.H. Ches. v (1), Later Medieval Chester: Economy and Society, 1230–1350 (Tolls, Customs, and Prises); Economy and Society, 1350–1550 (Corporation and Regulation of Trade).
16 Sel. R. Chester City Cts. p. xviii; B.L. Harl. MS. 2162, f. 6; C.C.A.L.S., ZAF 1, ff. 3–4; ZMB 1, ff. 2, 5, 6v.–7, 16v., 36, 37v., 52v., 69; ZMB 4, ff. 34, 53; ZQCR 2, 4–5, 10–11; ZSB 5, f. 35 and v.; ZSR 1, m. 1d.; ZSR 14, m. 2; Morris, Chester, 401–2.
17 C.C.A.L.S., ZCH 32.
18 Johnson, 'Aspects', 229, 244–5; Morris, Chester, 522; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), Later Medieval Chester: Economy and Society, 1350–1550 (Corporation and Regulation of Trade).
19 Morris, Chester, 402.
20 Ibid. 530, 538.
21 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, ff. 64v.–65.
22 Above, Municipal Buildings: Common Hall.
23 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, f. 77 and v.; Morris, Chester, 398–400.
24 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, f. 79; cf. ibid. ZMB 1, f. 106v.
25 e.g. ibid. ZAB 1, ff. 77v., 91v., 106–7, 112, 116v., 121, 131–2, 191v., 199v.; Morris, Chester, 400.
26 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, ff. 174–5; Morris, Chester, 297, 438–42.
27 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, f. 207; Morris, Chester, 420–1.
28 Cal. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1603–42, 124 n.
29 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, f. 219; Morris, Chester, 297.
30 B.L. Add. MS. 39925, f. 21.
31 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, ff. 46, 47v.; ibid. EDD 16/120, p. 52.
32 Ibid. ZAB 1, f. 217v.; ZAB 4, ff. 68, 107v.; Morris, Chester, 295–6.
33 King's Vale Royal, [i], 36; Cal. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1603–42, 125; S. I. Mitchell, 'Urban Markets and Retail Distribution, 1730–1815, with Particular Reference to Macclesfield, Stockport, and Chester' (Oxf. Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1974), 158.
34 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, ff. 29, 136.
35 Ibid. ZAB 4, f. 98.
36 T.H.S.L.C. cxliv. 1–46; Broster's Dir. Chester (1781), 21–2.
37 Mitchell, 'Urban Markets', 173; 3 Sheaf, xx, p. 90.
38 Mitchell, 'Urban Markets', 170–7; C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, ff. 90 and v., 110; ZAB 4, f. 5.
39 Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 15.
40 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 5, p. 127; ZAC 1, f. 28 and v.
41 Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 14–16; Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. p. 2627.
42 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 6, pp. 191, 556.
43 Chester Improvement Act, 1845, 8 & 9 Vic. c. 15 (Local and Personal), ss. 185–7, 189, 216–17.
44 Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 76.
45 C.C.A.L.S., ZCCB 31; ZCCF 3.
46 C.C.A.L.S., ZDS 5/1–12; Builder, 7 Feb. 1863; Morris's Dir. Ches. (1864), 6.
47 Gresty and Burghall's Chester Guide [1867], 66.
48 C.C.A.L.S., ZCCB 54, pp. 482–3, 504, 508, 515–16, 542, 551–3, 586; ZCCB 55, pp. 179, 184, 186; ZDS 5/13–19.
49 Ibid. ZDS 5/16–32; ZCCB 54, pp. 484–5; ZCCB 55, p. 195.
50 Ibid. ZCCB 56, pp. 235–6, 245, 270, 285–6, 293, 396.
51 Ibid. ZCR 119/24; ZDS 5/45.
52 Ibid. ZCCB 55, pp. 375, 397; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Ches. XXXVIII. 11 (1875, 1899 edns.).
53 Chester Chron. 29 July 1967; Ches. Observer, 23 June 1967.
54 C.C.A.L.S., ZAF 1, f. 9v.
55 Ibid. f. 245v.
56 Wm. Smith's map of Chester: Morris, Chester, facing p. 256.
57 Cal. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1603–42, 207.
58 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 2, ff. 108, 185; cf. ibid. f. 119v.
59 Ibid. ZAB 3, f. 131; cf. ZAB 5, f. 207.
60 Ibid. ZAB 5, p. 413; ZAB 6, pp. 26, 536, 553, 556; ZCCB 30.
61 A. D. Statham, City of Chester Livestock Market (copy at C.H.H.), 2–3; Chester City Cl. Mins. 1923/4, 614, 686–8; 1924/5, indexed refs. s.vv. Slaughter-Houses: Queen St.; 1925/6, 134; 1953/4, p. 443; 1956/7, p. 291; 1959/60, pp. 282, 406; 1961/2, pp. 69, 659; 1964/5, pp. 208, 327; 1969/70, p. 892.
62 P.R.O., E 315/47/139.
63 Ibid. CHES 25/1; WALE 29/272; J.C.A.S. n.s. ii. 166–8; V.C.H. Ches. v (1), Topography, 900–1914: Later Medieval (Street Plan within the Walls).
64 C.C.A.L.S., DVE 1/CI/32.
65 Ibid. ZD/HT 26; J.C.A.S. N.S. ii. 182–3; Morris, Chester, 257.
66 Morris, Chester, 396–8; C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, ff. 87–8.
67 King's Vale Royal, [i], 88; Morris, Chester, 227, 256, 298–9, 528; C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, ff. 111v., 169v., 261; above, Law and Order: Municipal Prisons (House of Correction).
68 J. Speed, Map of Ches. (1616); Morris, Chester, 227; C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 2, ff. 108, 197.
69 Cal. Chester City Cl. Mins. 1603–42, 79, 141, 186.
70 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 3, ff. 49, 63v.; Lavaux, Plan of Chester, above, Municipal Buildings: Exchange.
71 Mitchell, 'Urban Markets', 162–3.
72 Ormerod, Hist. Ches. i. 364; White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 106; O.S. Map, 1/500, Ches. XXXVIII. 11. 18 (1875 edn.).
73 Gresty and Burghall's Chester Guide [1867], 54.
74 White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 106; P. & G. Dir. Chester (1871), 17; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1878), 104.
75 Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1923), 249; (1928), 88.
76 V.C.H. Ches. v (1), Later Medieval Chester: Economy and Society, 1230–1350 (Trades and Industries).
77 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 1, f. 77v.
78 Ibid. ZAB 1, f. 219; Morris, Chester, 297, 398; Lavaux, Plan of Chester.
79 e.g. C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 2, ff. 112, 116v., 145, 151v., 156v., 162, 185 and v.
80 Ibid. ZAB 3, f. 131.
81 Below, Fairs.
82 This para. was contributed by C. P. Lewis.
83 C.C.A.L.S., ZAB 2, ff. 185v., 189.
84 Ibid. ZAB 3, ff. 78v., 183v.; ZAF 47c/57; ZAF 49c/22.
85 Parry's Dir. Chester (1840), 56; Bagshaw's Dir. Ches. (1850), 111; White's Dir. Ches. (1860), 144–5; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1878), 111, and later ends.; Kelly's Dir. Chester (1970), 152; C.P.S., Black Diamond Street.