go to table of contents  INTRODUCTION 

 Bibliographic note

There is no bibliography attached to this study. A number of the principal sources consulted are indicated in notes within the text, although an effort has been made to minimalize citations, to reduce interruptions to the narrative flow (consequently they are not to academic standards). As regards primary sources, the Pipe Rolls, Hundred Rolls and Quo Warranto inquisitions, and the calendars of Charter Rolls and other records of royal administration, published under the aegis of the Record Commission and the Public Record Office, evidence grants of markets, disputes between market-owners, and various other aspects of local economic activity; these have been consulted, including the relatively recently published calendars of the Fine Rolls of Henry II, as too Dugdale's Monasticon; the print versions of the Curia Regis Rolls, however, have not been available to me. Inquisitions post mortem sometimes provide corroborative or supplementary information about a few markets, and at least indication that those markets were still operating. However, their extents are idiosyncratic from region to region and escheator to escheator, and do not consistently include markets and fairs (so that lack of reference cannot be taken as indication of market failure); even when markets are included, these records need to be used with caution as their quality and reliability varied, and shortcuts seem to have been taken, such as copying older information (though this does not necessarily mean it was inaccurate).

The issue of arguing from silence applies across the board, so that concluding from absence of mentions that some market had become inactive or been abandoned by its owner can at best be only speculative in most cases. For instance, Letters' Gazetteer (see below) notes the market licence issued for Shenley (Herts.) in 1258 but then echoes the Victoria County History authors' observation that absence of later reference might mean the market was never in operation; yet that some unknown party, at some time in the sixteenth century, obtained a copy of the licence [National Archives, WARD 2/57C/212/7] suggests that the market was still, or had become again, a going concern. A possible exception to argument from silence being where there survives a good source, or series of records, in which we might reasonably expect to hear something of a local market, but do not. The Gazetteer entry for Wakefield (Yorks.) assumes a market existed since a comital charter of late twelfth century treated the place as a borough, but could provide no further evidence of any market; however, Wakefield's court rolls show a market active throughout the Late Middle Ages, though perhaps not very robust during the latter half of that period.

On the other hand we can occasionally find clues that support a conclusion drawn from silence. Reissues or confirmations of licences that include a clause permitting markets to be held notwithstanding any past hiatus in operation suggest that there had indeed been periods of inactivity. Other clues can be less clear. In 1246 William de Say received licence for a Tuesday market at his manor of Great Linton (Cambs.), which had descended to his father from a branch of the Mandevilles, and whose early population probably focused around the parish church. Yet in 1282, a decade after William's death, Simon de Furneaux, whose family had tenanted an adjacent manor at the hamlet of Barham (not to be confused with the village of that name near Huntingdon) for generations, obtained licence for a Friday market there, the presence of tradespeople already being documented within Barham's population, which was a comparable size to that of Linton. It is hard to imagine that two markets on each other's doorstep could have prospered equally, even though held at different ends of the week, and perhaps only some agreement between Simon and William's son and successor had avoided a legal challenge. The market at Linton – which William had bolstered by allocating land, some around the marketplace, for about three dozen burgage plots (a tenure not found at Barham), many being taken up by craftmen and shopkeepers – is evidenced well enough in the post-medieval period. Linton and Barham were gradually consolidating territorially along a connecting street on the north side of the Granta, and to some extent seigneurially, so that two marketplaces in a modest-sized locality could have seemed superfluous, particularly given that a third, unlicensed, market settlement seems to have arisen at later date south of the river; a map of 1600 makes reference to Barham's marketplace as the 'Old Market' and this qualifier is encountered as early as 1363. If the market at Barham – which manor had moved out of the Furneaux orbit by the close of the fourteenth century – had ever fared very well, it may have been inoperational by the mid-seventeenth century, when Linton's market was shifted to Thursdays.

A case perhaps similar to Linton's is seen at Osgodby (Yorks.); in mentioning the licence for a Wednesday market issued (1302) to its manorial lord, a man of only local influence, the VCH authors report no later evidence of the market. They did not notice that at nearby Hemingbrough the priory of Durham had been granted a Thursday market in 1295; although this too is not subsequently referenced, it is no great stretch of imagination to suggest that the prior would have objected to a competitive market at Osgodby, and negotiated (no legal challenge being known) some suppression of the Osgodby event. We must be careful about assuming that lack of documentation of a market is necessarily indicative of its failure.

Besides the aforementioned, the core sources of information to which this survey of selected counties is principally indebted (and to which specific citations are made only in a few instances) are as follows

Reports of the Extensive Urban Survey (EUS) conducted by regional authorities under the auspices of English Heritage – or, to give its full name, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England – during the last decade of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first. The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey was its pilot project (1993-96), and some gaps in coverage are still being filled through collaborative projects between Historic England (successor in 2015 to English Heritage) and particular county councils, such as the Devon Historic Market & Coastal Towns Survey. Though unpublished, the reports for a number of counties are accessible through the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) [http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/EUS], but those for a few counties, originally made available through unitary authority Web sites, have since lost their online presence. The EUS reports are relatively up-to-date, although the Essex component of the project was based on an earlier survey of the 1980s; but they are not always free of error, both factual and typographic. They summarize historical information (mostly from secondary sources, including recent local publications not widely accessible), findings of archaeological investigation up to about 2000, if published (much archaeological work remains unpublished), and examine evidence from topography and built heritage. The reports – compiled (when individual authorship is credited at all) mainly by persons whose principal area of expertise is archaeology – vary in quality and depth of historical investigation from county to county, each district authority having interpreted its mandate slightly differently.

Some three dozen major cities were subjected to intensive surveys, but findings have not been published in a comparable format. In the case of Essex, EUS reports have been selectively summarized and supplemented somewhat in a County Council Web site, Unlocking Essex's Past [http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk; last visited 9 February 2018]. The same growth of interest in the tourism potential of local heritage and a focus for future archaeological excavation, which gave rise to the EUS, has also, in quite a few cases, again with support from English Heritage, prompted local governing authorities, over the last few decades, to designate conservation areas within their areas of jurisdiction and to produce conservation area appraisals, historic landscape characterizations, town or village design statements, neighbourhood plans, or similar unpublished reports; these can sometimes provide small pieces of information useful to historians. These documents, generally available from the Websites of county, district, or parish councils, have also been consulted, though their coverage is incomplete, many market settlements not yet having such assessments. EUS reports and conservation area appraisals etc. have been consulted not only for the four counties featured in this study, but for almost all other market towns mentioned herein. Underlying all these types of studies is the assumption that cultural heritage, and a concern for its sustainability through careful management, has social capital in terms of improving individual and community health, education, and wealth – the last, notably through tourism enhancement. Furthermore, it is a common, though not universal, convention for archaeologists' reports to include some measure of historical background on the localities of their excavation sites; again the ADS online library is a repository for innumerable such reports.

The Victoria History of the Counties of England series (conventionally abbreviated as VCH), which are studies more comprehensive and more scholarly than was possible or necessary for the Urban Survey. Although the VCH initiative has capitalized on the growth of county record offices making previously under-exploited documents available, most volumes were written too early to take advantage of the more scientific archaeological investigations that have taken place over the last few decades [See, for example, Archaeological Services, Durham University, Ripon City Centre Improvement, Market Square Stage 2 - archaeological assessment, report published 2001 via Archaeology Data Service, https://doi.org/10.5284/1025302]. They also tend to pre-date the development of our current appreciation of the extent of the foundation of small market towns across England, or indeed the development of urban history as a scientific sub-discipline in its own right. A fair proportion of the small towns falling under the present study have been covered in VCH volumes, though not always with recognition of their urban character, and there remain a number of gaps to be filled. Just as the EUS reports were sourced to produce a Web site on Essex market towns, so the VCH has been the principal source for another county council project to use local writers to produce something similar, though not restricted to towns: Wiltshire Community History [https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk:443/community/last visited 23 August 2018]. By contrast, Herefordshire Through Time [https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/] addresses its historic towns collectively but no longer individually (although an older edition had pages on particular towns), individual communities now being described, albeit rather summarily, in Herefordshire Past http://herefordshirepast.co.uk/), while Shropshire's authority almost entirely disdains historical narrative.

An indispensable reference tool has been Dr. Samantha Letters' Online Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England Wales to 1516, which may be found on the Institute of Historical Research's Centre for Metropolitan History Web site [http://www.history.ac.uk/cmh/gaz/gazweb2.html]; a summary version was published by the National Archives' List and Index Society in 2002, but presenting the full product online allowed for updating for a decade after the print version was issued. Although it does not present a great deal of new research, its compilation and cross-checking of key information from a variety of other sources, primary and secondary, and its organization of the data through various indices makes it an invaluable tool for any study of the subject, not only because of its extensive coverage and its correction of errors made by earlier writers, but also for its facilitation of cross-referencing and comparative study. A small number of additional markets, overlooked by the Gazetteer, and supplementary information on those covered, can be found in the Calendars of Inquisitions Post Mortem or other sources. Some examples: a market at Fressingfield (Suff., possibly transferred from neighbouring Whittingham) [Catalogue of Ancient Deeds vol.2, B. 3814], a meeting-point of several roads, another at Roxby [Thomas Duffus Hardy, ed. Rotuli de Oblatis et Finibus ... Tempore Regis Johannis, London: Record Commissioners, 1835, p.351], Lincolnshire, situated close to Roman Ermine Street; others at Spofforth, North Frodingham, and Dewsbury (all Yorks., Dewsbury's transferred from Thornhill), Queniborough, (Leics.) and Portesham (Dorset) [Spofforth Conservation Area Character Appraisal, Harrogate Borough Council, 2008, p.3; North Frodingham Conservation Area Appraisal, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, 2011, p.7; Dewsbury draft Conservation Area Appraisal, p.8; Queniborough Conservation Area Character Appraisal, Charnwood Borough Council, 2011, p.8; Dorset History Centre, Bridport Borough records, DC/BTB/X2]; likely ones at Westcheap (Yorks.) Chipping (Lancs.), and also in the latter county one at Bury in Prestwich [ J. Raine, "Original Grant from Edmund de Lacy to his Tenants at Westchep, near Pontefract", Yorkshire Archaeological Society Journal, vol. 1 (1870), pp.169-74; Chipping Conservation Area Appraisal, Ribble Valley Borough Council; Lancashire Borough Archives, P/48 (copy of enrolment of market grant, 1467)]; less certain ones at Farley and Christian Malford, Wiltshire (market pleas were entertained by the manorial courts, [National Archives PRO, SC 2/200/56A, SC 2/208/57]), at Turing on the East Sussex coast (1444 grant recorded in the Charter Roll, but apparently problematic as parliament was petitioned for a renewal in 1453) and at Hockering and Stibbard in Norfolk (if we can trust Blomefield) whilst the market of Wynwale mentioned in 1336 [Norfolk Record Office, Hare 4116 211 x 1] just possibly was associated with St Winwaloe Priory in Wereham, Norfolk. But such gaps are to be expected in any wide-reaching study and do not diminish the value of the Gazetteer. Unlicensed markets, yielding no direct revenues to the operators, generated less documentary evidence, are particularly hard to detect, and were probably far more numerous than we yet appreciate. Albeit intended as a survey, the Gazetteer provides a very good introduction to the subject, although that in the First Report of the Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls [London: H.M.S.O., 1889, vol. 1, pp.1-30; see also the Commission's Final Report of 1891] retains some value, despite its age, and is supplemented by an extensive appendix of primary texts. A thematically-organized compilation of primary texts is also found in Helen Douglas-Irvine's Extracts Relating to Mediaeval Markets and Fairs in England [London, Macdonald & Evans, 1912]. The Centre for Metropolitan History followed up on the Gazetteer with a project titled Markets and Fairs in Thirteenth-Century England, out of which issued several analytical papers.

There have been a few region-specific studies [e.g. Bryan Coates, "The Origin and Distribution of Markets and Fairs in Medieval Derbyshire", Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol.85 (1965), 92-111; Richard Britnell, "Essex Markets before 1350", Essex Archaeology and History, ser.3, vol. 13 (1981), 15-21; Kenneth McCutcheon, Yorkshire Fairs and Markets to the End of the Eighteenth Century, Thoresby Society, vol.39 (1940); Maryanne Kowaleski, Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter, Cambridge University Press. 1995; Mavis Mate, "The rise and fall of markets in southeast England", Canadian Journal of History, vol.31 (1996), 59-86; Bradley McLain, "Factors in Market Establishment in medieval England: The Evidence from Kent 1086-1350", Archaeologia Cantiana, vol.117 (1997), 83-103; Keith Lilley, "Morphologies of Medieval Market Settlements: some Warwickshire examples", Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 11 (1996), 21-25], though dedicated studies of individual markets are rarer [e.g. Colin Brett, "The fairs and markets of Norton St Philip", Somerset Archaeology and Natural History, vol.144 (2002), 165-96] and in the last few decades the work of Richard Britnell, James Masschaele, Christopher Dyer, and a few other scholars has provided fresh insight into the emergence of market centres, related trading behaviour, and the growth of a market network in medieval England. In no regard does this present study supersede their important contributions to the field, though it hopes to supplement them.

County and local histories have also been consulted insofar as they have been available to me. These were written mostly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so that although authors often made good use of primary sources, some of which remain otherwise unpublished, we cannot expect them to be informed by current thought on urban history. Their authors mostly being clergymen or gentry, county histories of the nineteenth century also tended to be disproportionately preoccupied (from the perspective of the modern historian) with matters such as manorial descent and aristocratic pedigrees, and with parish topography, church fabric and monuments – preoccupations which lingered somewhat into the early Victoria County Histories. Nonetheless, in certain respects the work of antiquarians represents a sine qua non for much of the more scientific historical study conducted over the course of the last century. Despite its antiquarian character, Eyton's voluminous Antiquities of Shropshire (1854-60) remains useful for that county, and also touches on Herefordshire manors from time to time; less useful is the comparable work on Herefordshire, begun by Duncumb and continued by Cooke, for the scheme was only partially realized, but Robinson's History of the Castles of Herefordshire and Their Lords (1869) fills in some of the gaps. For Wiltshire the classic study is the multi-volume 'modern history' initiated in 1822 by Sir Richard Hoare – whose main interest was archaeology and thereby ancient history – but taken up by others before and after his death. Essex's history had a capable student in Morant, although like most antiquarians his work is more useful for the facts it reports than for the interpretations made or conclusions drawn, sometimes inevitably erroneous because of his limited information; Wright's county history relied on Morant while trying to add information and correct its errors. Essex is one of the few counties fortunate to have had detailed abstracts of its medieval final concords published [Ernest Kirk and R. Fowler, Feet of Fines for Essex, coll. in 3 vols., 1899-1949]; although individually not a very rich source, being brief summaries of transactions, final concords can provide useful fragments of information in regard to places not well documented, and collectively are susceptible to some statistical analysis.

Local histories of small towns are uncommon from the period when the counties and provincial cities were attracting erudite study. The rise in interest in local history over the last half-century has seen a new generation, often better-trained and better-informed, produce histories of a number of the places covered in this study; unfortunately such works have been produced by minor publishers, have not found wide distribution or places in libraries (particularly those on my side of the Atlantic), and in few cases have I been able to access them.

The online catalogue of the Essex Record Office (henceforth ERO) has also proven of some help in the research for this study; document reference numbers cited in the present text indicate that a catalogue entry, rather than the original record, has been consulted – except in the case of Maldon, where I have been able to call on my own notes from original sources – but some catalogue entries are quite detailed. The published records of Colchester (including the printed, but unpublished, fourth volume in Benham's court roll series), and again my own notes on those sources, have also provided some information. The online catalogue of the National Archives has likewise been helpful, notably in regard to abstracts of petitions addressed to the king, some of which are more fully transcribed in the Rotuli Parliamentorum and elsewhere.

For the errors that are undoubtedly to be found within as large and wide-ranging a study as this, it is not my sources but, of course, myself who must bear the blame.

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Created: December 31, 2018. Last update: May 26, 2021 © Stephen Alsford, 2018-2021