go to table of contents  MARKET TOWNS IN ESSEX 

 ca. 1200 Great Bardfield

Keywords: Great Bardfield manors villages borough burgage tenure travel routes topography marketplace streets market competition Great Dunmow lawsuits market holders Clare earl town-founding Tonbridge Rothwell Marlow Standon Buntingford Petersfield Wigan Sudbury Bletchingley Brasted Thornbury Fairford Cranborne

The village of Great Bardfield is situated in the north-western sector of Essex, along with Thaxted, just a few miles west, Saffron Walden twelve miles to the north-west, Great Chesterford even more distant, and Braintree nine miles south-east. The River Pant (which becomes the Blackwater) forms its northern boundary and Great Bardfield lay on ground sloping gently down to the river. Great Bardfield has not yet been covered in The Victoria County History of Essex, nor was it included in the Extensive Urban Survey of that county. The village is mentioned in Domesday, and the manor was in the hands of the Clare family from the Conquest.

A market there is first heard of in 1224, in a context that suggests it was not then new. This would make it older than markets elsewhere (above) in the region, except that at Saffron Walden, so that it would have faced relatively little competition when established. It was instead the licensing in 1219 of a market at Great Dunmow, some six miles south, that gave cause for concern, as both settlements were on the same north-south through-road connecting London with the Domesday borough of Sudbury, whose market was an early centre both of cloth production and sale of cloth made elsewhere in its region around the Suffolk/Essex border. Within a few years a complaint of detrimental competition had been made and in late 1224 went before the king's court. The following year the owner of Great Dunmow defended that the sheriff had completed an investigation in the region, and that since Great Bardfield's market was held on Saturdays, but that at Great Dunmow had been licensed for Tuesdays, the latter was not damaging the former. That its license had been purchased during Henry III's minority placed Great Dunmow's market in a weaker position. We do not know the outcome of the court case, but the defence was probably accepted, for once Henry III had emerged from his minority, he renewed Great Dunmow's licence. Curiously, no challenge from Great Bardfield is known after a new owner of Great Dunmow, John de Berners, obtained (1254) a new licence for its market, changing the day to Friday, which would have been grounds for a complaint. The matter must have been put to rest when the Clares obtained control of Great Dunmow's market, and presumably the manor itself. Great Bardfield may have been at a disadvantage in competing with other markets of the region, for the land around it seems to have been mainly arable [Great Bardfield Parish. Great Bardfield Village Design Statement, n.d. (ca.2005) p.8], with little evidence of the sheep-farming that might have encouraged the development of local cloth manufacture.

The owner of Great Bardfield's market in 1224 was Gilbert III de Clare, who had inherited the earldom of Hertford from his father and the earldom of Gloucester from his mother (daughter of the 2nd Earl of Gloucester); most of the Clares' Essex estates were concentrated in the north-western sector of the county. Though Gilbert assigned Bardfield as the dowry of his daughter Isabella when she married Robert de Brus in 1240, it subsequently reverted to the family fold. The market is mentioned in an inquisition post mortem (1296) on Gilbert's like-named grandson, the 7th earl of Gloucester,when its stallage was said to be worth 13s.4d. annually, which suggests several dozen stall sites may have existed; a stall was part of the Great Bardfield property conveyed by a local resident in 1363, and probably stood in front of the messuage that was the main element of the transfer. Bardfield's market was once more referenced in the post mortem (1314) on his son, yet another Gilbert, the 8th earl, when there was income worthy of mention not just from stallage (double the 1296 figure), but also tolls. By this time Great Dunmow had come into the hands of the Clare earls, though its market was being farmed out; that the Clares had an early claim to it is indicated by an ownership dispute involving Richard Fitz-Gilbert (see below). The post mortem on the 8th earl also mentions his markets at Popeshale (Herts.), Petersfield (Hants.), Burford (Oxon.), Rothwell (Northants.), Wareham (Dorset), and Brenchley (Kent.), but these were only some of the markets with which the de Clare family was connected, and an examination of family history in regard to lordship of markets and towns must occupy us before we return to Great Bardfield.

The family fortunes in England began with Richard Fitz-Gilbert (bef. 1035-ca.1090), son of Gilbert de Brionne, 2nd Count of Eu. Richard, a companion and distant kinsman of the Conqueror, was rewarded for his support with numerous estates, some immediately following the Conquest and others later in the reign, making him one of the wealthiest tenants-in-chief at the time of Domesday [Jennifer Ward, The estates of the Clare family 1066-1317. PhD. thesis, University of London, 1962 pp.28, 32]. These estates included Clare (Suff.) and Tonbridge (Kent), at both of which Richard was authorized to build castles – that at Tonbridge being built ca.1067, and Clare's was in place by 1090 – but the principal baronial honour was that of Clare, though Tonbridge could also be referred to as an honour and remained in family hands until the male line was extinguished. Tonbridge itself and parts of its surrounds were held of the archbishops of Canterbury (or so they claimed), as a banlieu, though this is here to be understood more as a collection of franchises – some ancient, others accumulated over time – rather than a compact territorial entity over which the Clares had exclusive jurisdiction [See Ward, op.cit., ch.6]. It was apparently the family's earliest base in England, since occasionally used as Richard's by-name; but Clare was centrally situated in the Suffolk/Essex region where the family's more valuable manors lay – only later was the East Anglian interest extended by adding estates in Norfolk – and so was a more natural choice as the Clares' principal residence, with Tonbridge as a convenient base for living off the produce of family estates in southern England.

Richard's brother Baldwin was also granted an honour, focused around the borough of Okehampton (Devon), whose market is mentioned in Domesday. Richard himself had only minor holdings in Devon, notably Lympstone, a fishing village on the Exe estuary; there is reference in 1288 to burgesses there, but since Lympstone had by then passed into other lordship, we cannot associate the Clares with any burghal plantation there – that would more likely have been an initiative of the Aumale family, aiming (unsuccessfully) to develop Lympstone into a port servicing Exeter's market. However, it is also possible the burgesses there, from whom William de Aumale received rent, obtained their status from his nearby borough of Woodbury, for which he had obtained a market licence in 1286. Nor can we with certainty credit the Clares as town-founders at Clare itself, for by the time of Domesday the manor contained a borough with a pre-Conquest market; yet it is not improbable the 43 burgesses there in 1086 were a colony established by Richard Fitz-Gilbert, though possibly a town had been founded by the collegiate church which had been endowed with part of the manor by its Saxon lord. Ward [op.cit., pp.47-48] suggested that the three-fold increase in the value of Clare manor between 1066 and 1086, contrasted with the decrease in the number of ploughs active, pointed to Fitz-Gilbert having increased rents and dues; the introduction of new settlers would have assisted in that. At Great Bardfield the number of plough-teams had almost halved over that same period, yet it had retained its pre-Conquest value; this could likewise be a sign of Fitz-Gilbert actively seeking to develop the revenues from the manor, though whether through the introduction of a burghal component cannot be said.

Tonbridge is another matter, however. Despite there being at its site an important crossing point of the River Medway on the overland route from London to the port of Hastings, Tonbridge is not covered in Domesday, though its existence is implied by its use as a personal by-name. It had a market prior to the licensing era, probably in a triangular space between the castle gate and the parish church, flanked by the street leading to the bridge; the market may have been established in conjunction with the castle (placed to overlook the river transit) – though the location of Tonbridge was a likely place for commerce to be taking place at even earlier date – but our first reference to it is not until the aforementioned post mortem of 1296. By that date Tonbridge had had borough status for over half a century, but perhaps not much longer than that, the construction of town walls from the 1240s to the '60s possibly following that enhancement of status, and accompanying strengthening of the castle. We can thus with more confidence posit Tonbridge as a town foundation of one of the Clares. While conceivable that a fair had long been held there by prescriptive right, family post mortems make no mention of it, and none is known before the Audley successor to the Clares obtained grant of one from Edward II, his wife's uncle, in 1318.

Richard's son, Gilbert Fitz-Richard (ca.1055-ca.1117), was the first member of the family to begin using de Clare as an alternate surname, and the family heads styled themselves as earls of Clare, though this appears a pretension; Gilbert was more validly able to call himself lord of Cardigan, as the family extended its holdings in the Welsh Marches. One of Gilbert's younger brothers was lord of Little Dunmow (just west of Great Dunmow) and Baron Baynard; Baynard was the name of the family that founded Little Dunmow's priory and which in 1086 held the church and the greater portion of an estate at Poslingford (near Clare), alongside that of Richard Fitz-Gilbert, so we may conjecture a marriage alliance.

Gilbert's son Richard, 3rd lord of Clare, is not associated with any market or town foundations; his younger brother, Gilbert, benefitting from inheriting Welsh lands from his uncles, pursued family interests there, being one of the candidates as founder of the castle-town of Haverfordwest (Pemb.), whose market is first documented in 1207, when its day was changed. About two years after Richard's death (1136) this Gilbert was given the earldom of Pembroke as a reward for throwing his support to King Stephen, while Richard's son Gilbert, 4th lord of Clare, was rewarded at the same time with the earldom of Hertford. Another Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, is thought to have been instrumental in promoting Cowbridge (Glam.) to borough status in mid-twelfth century.

Dying without issue, Gilbert, the 1st Earl of Hertford, was succeeded by his brother Roger (1116-73) in the earldom and the lordship of Clare. Roger's son, Richard III (3rd Earl of Hertford and 6th lord of Clare), was in possession of the town of Rothwell (Northants.) by 1202, when he was accused of having changed the day of its prescriptive market from Sunday to Saturday without authorization; presumably the new day created competitive conflict with another market of the area. The court instructed that the market be held on Monday instead, and in 1204 the earl obtained a royal charter approving its transfer to Mondays while at the same time acquiring the right to a four-day fair. Yet difficulties evidently remained, for in 1206 he paid the king for the right to revive Rothwell's Sunday market, perhaps in addition to that on Monday. Following Richard's death (1217), Market Harborough complained that Rothwell's Monday market was damaging its own, and a tribunal ordered a change of day, though whether this was effected is unclear, as the market was a Monday event in 1330. A minster site and part of a Saxon royal estate, with archaeological evidence suggesting some planned settlement in or before the eleventh century, Rothwell had a market by 1154, when Earl Roger de Clare granted a toll exemption to the monks of Sulby. In the 1170s we hear of a burgage tenement, held by Roger the merchant, being donated to the church; borough status is further evidenced in the thirteenth century. The manor had come into Clare hands in the mid-twelfth century, perhaps partly from the king, but at least partly through Earl Roger's marriage (date unknown) to Matilda, heiress of the barony of Saint Hilary.

Which of these lords was responsible for the market and possibly associated borough foundation is uncertain, though the Clares seem a strong possibility; Roger having only just succeeded to the earldom when Matilda's father died, he may have decided to develop Rothwell as the Clares' English caput of the Honour of Saint Hilary. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that, a couple of years after Roger died, Matilda married the Earl of Arundel and took her inheritance into the marriage, so that it did not come to Richard III de Clare until 1195, the barony subsequently being absorbed into the Honour of Clare. In 1222/23 Rothwell's residents tried to claim exemption from toll at Northampton's market, on the grounds they had formerly been tenants of the Crown, but their case was rebuffed. Rothwell's market looks like an extension to the original village, and was possibly associated with a small castle. No borough charter is known, but by 1262 the burgesses were farming their town, its market, and tenements flanking the marketplace from their Clare lords for £14 10s. annually, though market stalls were still being rented directly from the manor, yielding an income of almost £8, and the fair (generating £4, and £5 in the 1307 inquisition post mortem on the widow of a later earl) remained under manorial control. Richard III's like-named grandson (5th Earl of Hertford and 6th of Gloucester) founded a nunnery there, though his death intervened before he was able to endow it properly, and his successors neglected it. However, the market was already losing ground, and would continue to do so, to a newer market at Kettering (licensed 1227) which was better situated within the road network. By the close of the Middle Ages Rothwell was reverting to a cottage community (that is, burgage was being altered to other forms of tenure), though Rothwell managed, barely, to retain a role as a small market town. [Glenn Foard, Northamptonshire Extensive Urban Survey: Rothwell, Northamptonshire County Council, 2000, passim].

Richard had furthered the family's prospects by marrying (ca.1172) Amice Fitz-William, later the 4th Countess of Gloucester – the fathers of each having been political and military allies – although the earldom did not immediately come with this, as it was in the hands of successive husbands of the dowager 3rd countess. But from 1218 Richard's son, Gilbert (ca.1180-1230), already 4th Earl of Hertford, could add 5th Earl of Gloucester to his list of titles. Gilbert married a co-heiress of the Welsh branch of the house of Clare (whose earldom of Pembroke had passed by marriage to the Marshals), thereby bringing back into the Clare fold a share of that earldom's lands, such as Cowbridge, while Glamorgan (or, rather, such of it as had been conquered by the Normans), one of the most powerful and wealthy of the Welsh Marcher lordships, had come with the Gloucester estates; this development did not come until about 1247, for five Marshal sons had to die heirless first, and some lands waited for the death of one of their widows in 1275. This Gilbert (III) was the Clare who held Great Bardfield and its market in 1224. In their Handlist of medieval boroughs, Beresford and Finberg noted references to burgage rents at Great Bardfield in 1298 and 1329/30, and pushed the existence of the borough back to at least 1253 on the evidence of a Patent Roll reference to a burgess of Bardefeld; but the context of this reference – the burgess is given permission to remain in the realm, with his ships and merchandize, during a truce between England and France – casts uncertainty on whether this was the English Bardfield; it was more probably a location in the Low Countries. The timing of insertion of a burghal component into Great Bardfield remains unknown, but it was doubtless an initiative of one of the lords of Clare.

Gilbert III de Clare's descendants, born into an age when the foundation of licensed markets was in full swing, were rather more engaged in this sphere. In October 1235 his eldest son, Richard IV (1222-1262) – or, more strictly, his guardian since Richard was still a minor – had to oppose in the king's court the establishment of a market at Long Melford (Suff.), licensed a few months earlier by the Abbot of St. Edmunds; this was presumably a complaint of detrimental competition against the market at Clare, about five miles to the west. By the time of his death, Richard had lands in some twenty English counties, as well as his Welsh estates. His holdings included a prescriptive market (or at least its toll revenues) and an unspecified number of fairs at Wantford (Suff., now Poslingford), a couple of miles north of Clare and associated with that parish; his inquisition post mortem portrays these as linked to the lordship of Clare borough. Whether one of the fairs was that licensed in 1231 to Gilbert de Wanteford, chapel priest there, to be held beside the chapel, is doubtful. As well, Richard's son later claimed his father had owned a fair at Chipstead (Surr.), whose very name, meaning 'market-place', suggests it was a place of trade perhaps before the Clares had any rights there; the inquisition post mortem (1314) of the last Clare earl confirms Chipstead as a Clare holding, when described as a member of Bletchingley, but there is no mention of a fair or market.

From the time of his father's death in 1230 Richard also had possession of the borough of Marlow (Bucks); the first reference we have to Clare lordship there is in his inquisition post mortem. It had been part of the Honour of Gloucester following the Conquest, but Richard's father's claim to it through his wife was delayed by other descendants of William Fitz-Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester. Confirmation of the existence of a market there is had in 1227/28, when the burgesses complained to the eyre justices about unwarranted tolls imposed, and in the fourteenth century its market role was sometimes reflected in references to it as Chipping Marlow, though more officially it was Great Marlow. Marlow, along with most of the Clare holdings in Buckinghamshire, is missing from the voluminous inquisition records subsequent to the death of the 6th Earl of Hertford in 1295, but a decade later appears in his widow Joan's post mortem, when there is mention of tolls from its market and two fairs; no licenses are known for any of these. Great Marlow's fortunes were based on its location on the north bank of the Thames, so that it had water-based access to London, though there was no direct land route connection. Joan's post mortem found it worth noting the presence of a windlass at the riverside, since its use for loading and unloading vessels – surely no larger than barges or fishing-boats – and perhaps for lifting some out of the river when repairs were necessary, was a source of income for the manor; so too was a fishery, which had been valuable since at least the time of Domesday.

A roughly east-west road connection between Reading and Amersham, passing through Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, and High Wycombe, may have been a focus of early settlement at Marlow, along with the riverside church; but when the borough was established it was along a High Street heading north from the church to meet the east-west through-road. Burgage-type plots of regularized size are distinguishable along either side of the northern half of Marlow's High Street, with slight indications of back lanes; the southern half of the street, as far as the church, has the widened, funnel-shaped look of a marketplace, with possible burgage plots along the east side. Some burgage plots appear to overlay part of what has been hypothesized as an older main street, superseded by the newly-created High Street, though this remains controversial. A market there could go as far back as the Late Saxon period, but the borough at Marlow is first referenced in 1183, making it likely that the urban component, along with building or rebuilding of the church and perhaps too the bridge (first referenced in 1227), was planned and realized by William Fitz-Robert. Conflicting evidence and theories leave the dating of, and number of phases involved in, the foundation and extent of the planned town a question-mark, but certainly the crucial steps were taken prior to Clare lordship. However, a borough jury informed the hundredal enquiry of 1280 that Richard had purchased a royal grant of the fairs (not of the market, as mistakenly thought by the author of the Victoria County History) at least twenty years previously.

Richard IV and his father presumably also held the lordship of Burford (Oxon.), another part of the Honour of Gloucester, although it may not have come to the Clares immediately, for it is not until the death of the last Clare earl that we hear of it in family possession. His inquisition post mortem mentions the market tolls, and rents payable by 13 burgesses. As in the case of Great Marlow, the plantation of a town at Burford took place prior to Clare lordship, with at least two phases of development suggested by blocks of burgage plots using different measurements: a block of them along one stretch of the High Street, believed laid out in eleventh or early twelfth century, were each 1.5 perches in width and between 22 and 28 perches deep, while an extension to the High Street settlement in late twelfth century made the burgage plots twice as wide and little more than half as deep. Burford's market is mentioned in charters granted by the pre-Clare earls of Gloucester, which permitted the residents a merchant gild, and it certainly had borough status before 1156. Geat Bedwyn is yet another borough that came to the Clares through marriage – in this case, it was part of the Marshal inheritance – and in whose development they played little role, though to be fair the Clares had possession only from 1275 (Gilbert IV).

Curiously, the Clare earls do not seem to have held substantial estates in Hertfordshire, though what they had was engaged in a fierce competition for the commerce of, or passing through, the north-eastern sector of the county – an example of an area over-supplied with markets, despite having a relatively dense population. It is from the inquisition post mortem (1262) on Richard IV that we have the first reference to the borough of Standon as a possession of the senior Clare line, although the manor had been acquired through Richard Fitz-Gilbert's marriage (his wife being the Domesday tenant). By 1262, and throughout the remainder of the century, the borough, along with its prescriptive market, was being farmed out to the burgesses (although the earl reserved half the court perquisites separate to the farm), an exception to the more general trend of manorial lords directly administering their manors at that period. The jurors of the Hertfordshire hundredal enquiry of 1274/75 did not mention the unlicensed market in their accusations related to Standon, but in 1278 Earl Gilbert IV's steward was nonetheless before quo warranto proceedings and unable to show by what right the market existed; while this would normally imply an ancient (prescriptive) origin for the market, it might just possibly mean that an unlicensed market – with, more significantly, tolls – had been initiated during the weakened policing of the thirteenth century's civil wars, sandwiched loosely around a royal minority and its aftermath. Gilbert IV (in particular), along with his father and his son, were quite active in acquiring small pieces of land to expand their Standon demesne, which suggests that Standon's commerce in produce at that period was thriving; however, expansion of holdings, sometimes by usurpation, was a common, if opportunistic, seigneurial practice and the Clares pursued the same policy, if to a lesser extent, at Great Bardfield and elsewhere. By 1307 the tolls from Standon's market and most other revenues of the manor were in the hands of a cadet branch of the family.

On the other hand, Popeshale, in the same part of the county, had been acquired by Earl Richard through purchase from the Criol, or Kyriel, family, which had licensed a Friday market there in 1252, held at the south end of the manor, near the manor-house; by 1296 Popeshale was being treated by the Clares an appurtenance of the manor of Standon. In 1322 its market was referred to as the 'Neuchepyng', and its location survives as present-day Chipping; at that time its tolls were valued at 16s. annually, which suggests it was doing fairly well. But another Clare property a couple of miles south, Buntingford, was slightly better situated within the communication system: it, Standon, and Popeshall it were all on or close to both the River Rib and Ermine Street (which connected London with northern England). Standon was actually on Stane Street just east of its junction with Ermine Street, but Buntingford was at a point where there was an intersection of the river, Ermine Street and a lesser east-west road; there Ermine Street forded the Rib, and Buntingford's territory lay on marginal land, extending into several parishes. The interrelationship between these three places and their markets has been studied by Mark Bailey ["A tale of two towns: Buntingford and Standon in the later Middle Ages," Journal of Medieval History vol.19 (1993), pp. 351-71], while Terry Slater ["Planning English medieval 'street towns': the Hertfordshire evidence," Landscape History, vol.26 (2004), pp.21-23] has applied town-plan analysis technique to Buntingford. Other markets were also tapping into the Ermine Street conduit of commerce, such as: Buckland, a mile north of Chipping, licensed as a Tuesday event in1258, along with a fair; Corneybury, midway between Chipping and Buntingford, licensed to London's Holy Trinity Priory in 1253 for Tuesdays; Braughing, two miles north of Standon, owned by Holy Trinity Priory since at least mid-twelfth century, when its market is mentioned; and Puckeridge, between Braughing and Standon, licensed 1314 for Thursdays. If we may judge from lack of evidence about them, some failed to establish a long-term niche, such as Corneybury and Braughing, the latter possibly an early focal point of the area, but past its peak by the thirteenth century.

Despite this competitive environment and the adverse effects of plague on the consumer population and the trade in grain, upon which that part of the country was principally reliant, Buntingford was able to attract growing commerce over the course of the fourteenth century, probably at the expense of the markets at Chipping and at Standon, the latter four miles south-east of Buntingford, although Standon's market shows signs of already experiencing a drop-off in activity before plague hit, and more so afterwards. In 1360 Clare descendant Elizabeth de Burgh, a few months before her death, purchased licence to transfer the market of Neuchepying to the High Street and cross-streets of Buntingford, while also acquiring a fair for the place. This did not sit well with the Duke of Clarence, husband of Elizabeth's like-named grand-daughter; seven years later, his wife having died and he now holding, by courtesy of England, Standon and Popeshall, but not Buntingford – so he claimed, though his manipulation of judicial proceedings ensured there would be none present to gainsay his arguments – Clarence had Buntingford's licence for market and fair revoked, on the flimsy and dubious grounds they were damaging to his fair at Standon (no reference being made to any market there), and a licence issued for a Friday market and a fair at Standon. However, when the residents of Buntingford learned of this, they counter-claimed that de Burgh's actions in 1360 had been followed up by her turning over control of Buntingford's market to them; it is unclear how those residents were organized to manage the market and oppose Clarence's underhanded attempt to destroy it, though Bailey theorized a local socio-religious gild might have been the agency for collective action. The king consequently relicensed the Buntingford market, though altering the day to Saturday, in an effort to preserve the principle of avoidance of undue competition.

Standon had been a borough – perhaps more accurate to say a burghal component along a market street had been added to, or inserted within, an existing village – since at least the first half of the thirteenth century and, Bailey [op.cit. p.366] suspected a Clare foundation, while the Saxon church was rebuilt in the early thirteenth century, though the Templars seem to have been its owners at the time. It seems plausible that Standon's borough can be attributed to the Clares, on the speculation that they were aiming to have a market town within each county where they held manors, if primarily to service local consumers. Standon's burgesses were permitted to share the income from the local market, fair, and court in return for an annual fee farm, which makes de Burgh's arrangement at Buntingford less unusual. Buntingford, on the other hand, is thought to have originated as a hamlet resulting from spread of settlement from Layston towards Ermine Street. Elements of its topography could be interpreted as a subsequent phase of planning: blocks of burgage-like tenements along either side of a central portion of its axial street, those blocks terminating at a back lane on one side and the river on the other; a funnel-shaped widening of the street at its south end (later known as Market Hill) where it approached the river crossing; a chapel erected within this widened area at the bridge end. Slater suspected a single landlord to be responsible for the burgage-like tenement series; Elizabeth de Burgh is a possible candidate, given her acquisition of market licence for Buntingford, and then her transfer of the market (and perhaps other rights) to the residents. However, the chapel – possible gathering-place of the socio-religious gild – is mentioned in the late thirteenth century, and in the 1360 grant to de Burgh, although its total replacement in the seventeenth century has left no architectural traces for dating the original. This might point to one of the later Clare lords taking the initiative to lay out marketplace and tenemental blocks, build the chapel and perhaps also the bridge. Whether this amounted to a town foundation is questionable. But Buntingford's occupational diversity in the Late Middle Ages – seemingly greater than that at Standon – combined with the measure of administrative autonomy its residents had received from de Burgh suggests it at least proto-urban. At Standon a 'New Street' had to be put in place to span the half-mile between Ermine Street and the north end of the main street (though the borough and marketplace were further south along that street). Nor was Chipping's marketplace within the stretch of Ermine Street that passed through it, but was described in 1360 as an open area (yet not necessarily devoid of stalls, as some have assumed). Buntingford, however, was directly on Ermine Street and must have been able to capitalize more effectively on merchants passing along that route; after the market licence was transferred there, the residents established a funnel-shaped space within its High Street as the focus of the marketplace. Standon's decline over the course of the fourteenth century made it unable to pay its full fee-farm to the Clares' successors, and this is presumably why Clarence sought to bolster its prospects while removing nearby competition from a market from which he received less, if any, revenue. The licensing of Standon's market did not stem its decline, however; by the late fifteenth century, court business – which was partly a reflection of commercial activity – had dropped to the point that sessions were held far less regularly.

Bailey felt the Standon-Buntingford case illustrated two important points. First, the importance of positioning a market settlement properly within the road system. Second, that while seigneurial initiative was important in the establishment of formal markets in the post-Conquest centuries, by the Late Middle Ages seigneurial rights could be stifling, so that less tightly controlled communities might do better in adapting to economic changes.

Richard IV de Clare also inherited from his father the manor of Wells-next-the-sea (Norf.), whose market is documented in 1202, though it was another of the estates he later conferred on his brother William. The market is not mentioned in the Wells entry of the inquisition post mortem of Richard's son Gilbert, but tolls imposed on ships using the port are. Towards the end of his life Richard obtained from the abbey of Bury St. Edmund's the Suffolk manor of Southwold, for which an earlier abbot had obtained a market and fair licence in 1221; this was in exchange for the relinquishment of Clare claims to Mildenhall manor, for which the abbot had obtained similar licence in 1219. Richard renewed Southwold's licence upon assuming lordship in 1259 and also obtained licence to fortify the manor-house there. Southwold's harbour and fishing community had become an increasingly attractive asset as the port and market of Dunwich – whose burgesses had in 1231 been accused by the earl and his Southwold tenants of blocking traders from taking their merchandize from the port to Southwold's market – were destroyed by coastal erosion during the early fourteenth century, and Southwold was slowly urbanizing: in the 1480s it would be designated the official port of that part of the coast and granted a charter incorporating it as a borough.

One of Gilbert III de Clare's younger sons, William (12281258), had a manor at Little Walsingham (Norf.). This manor may have been acquired among other Norfolk lands granted to Gilbert Fitz-Richard by the king; it was given to William by Richard IV soon after he came of age, but later reverted to the main line of the family, William leaving no male heirs. For this manor William obtained – perhaps thanks to his brother Richard's influence at court, or at least to the king's desire to retain Richard's loyalty – in 1252 licence for a Friday market and then in 1257 another for a Monday market; it is not clear if the latter was a substitute or extension, but the context tends to favour extension. In 1226 the Prior of Walsingham had acquired a provisional licence there, pending Henry III's majority, for Friday market and a fair; but there is no sign of the priory renewing this when Henry came of age, and possibly the Friday event took place in a jointly-owned location or across two separately-owned locations. It seems that, at some point, an agreement was reached between William and the priory on this awkward situation; it included an exchange between the parties, whereby William was conceded the profits from stallage, tolls, and customs from the fairs – held just outside the priory precinct – and the priory's half of the profits from markets held on Saturday and Sunday in a commonly-owned location, while the priory received William's share of rights over leet administration and the assize of bread and ale in Walsingham. In 1251 the priory licenced a second fair, or perhaps a substitute for its original fair (switching the timing from spring to autumn and extending the fair's length from two to eight days), but the following year quitclaimed it to William, who followed up with a royal grant at the same time that he licensed the Friday market; so this may have been part of the aforementioned agreement between the parties sharing lordship in Walsingham. Evidently William de Clare had ambitions, or at least hopes, for the development of commerce at Little Walsingham, perhaps based on the Augustinian priory (founded 1153) being an important site of pilgrimage from all over England and from abroad via Lynn and other Norfolk ports, including royal visits – Henry III in particular was a great supporter of the shrine there. It was in the same period that an extension was added to the original church-focused village, in the form of a new planned grid of streets nearer to the priory, though there is no evidence this had borough status. Walsingham became built up with ecclesiastical hostelries, inns and shops to serve pilgrims, and in the fourteenth century Elizabeth de Burgh, a sister and co-heiress of the last Clare earl, was still willing to invest in Little Walsingham by sponsoring foundation of a Franciscan friary and including among its endowments the Clare rights in the Friday market. The unusual division of control over markets, which inevitably gave rise to some rivalry, was long preserved in the existence of a Tuesday Market Place, between the upper end of the High Street and the priory's entrance, and a Friday Market Place at the lower (southern) end of the High Street, closer to the original village. With pilgrimage suppressed at the Dissolution, Walsingham's economy had to fall back on its secondary role as a market town.

In 1255 the same William acquired a licence for two fairs at Petersfield (Hants.), in June and November. This was a manor that had passed to the family as part of the Honour of Gloucester. It had already been granted borough status by Earl William Fitz-Robert, (d.1183 without male heir), according to subsequent charters of confirmation issued by Hawisa, Countess of Oxford (undated) and by Prince John (1198). Hawisa was the name of the widow of Fitz-Robert but also, to confuse the issue, an alternative name used for their daughter Isabella (d.1217), 3rd Countess of Gloucester, first wife to Prince John until he had the marriage annulled (1199); Isabella died childless and so the earldom passed to her sister's husband, Richard de Clare, who granted Petersfield to his brother William in 1248, though it later reverted to the main branch of the family. The charters conveyed the liberties and customs of Winchester – that is, of its merchant gild – to "my burgesses of Petersfield who have built and remain in the borough of Petersfield and to those who shall build in it" [Adolphus Ballard, ed. British Borough Charters 1042-1216, Cambridge: University Press, 1913, p.28], which looks like a new town foundation, upgrading or expanding an existing settlement (evidenced by an early eleventh century church dedicated to St. Peter) within the manor of Petersfield. Petersfield's prescriptive market doubtless took place in a large rectangular space immediately north of the churchyard, since local streets all came, in time, to converge on that space. It is suspected that the borough was planted along what may originally have been a lane connecting the north-east corner of The Square (as the marketplace is still known), to a north-south through-road, part of the route between Portsmouth and London, this lane being widened to form what was later known as the High Street; plots on either side of that street, and extending along the northern side of The Square, are of the burgage type [Dave Hopkins, Extensive Urban Survey: Archaeological Assessment Document, Petersfield, Hampshire County Council, 2004, p.5]. Another lane, radiating diagonally from the south-east corner of The Square, past the churchyard and probable site of the manor-house, to join the through-road further south, was later mostly closed off; but the market end was enabled to continue to the through-road along what might have originated as a back lane behind the southern row of burgages. In the 1170s the church was enlarged, presumably to accommodate a population growing, or anticipated to grow, in consequence of the town foundation, while the wide High Street points to market expansion along its length.

The fairs introduced at Petersfield by William de Clare were to be held around festivals of St. Peter and St. Andrew. The latter was the dedication of a chapel, possibly situated on the north side of the borough; this was first documented in 1458, but perhaps originated as a cell or hospital associated with Durford Abbey [Hopkins, op.cit., pp. 7, 11]. The abbey was founded ca.1160 two miles east of Petersfield, just over the border in Sussex, and was where William de Clare was buried, his brother Gilbert then giving his manor of Sonworth to the abbey. Among the abbey's earliest benefactors were William Fitz-Robert and his wife, who gave it land near Petersfield and exemption from its market tolls on food or clothing purchased for the canons' needs [W.H. Blaauw, Dureford abbey, its fortunes and misfortunes, London, 1856, p.17]. With its large flocks of sheep, the abbey was a contributor to Petersfield's economy, fuelling the cloth-making and tanning industries that were important locally, and attracting Florentine merchants to buy wool.

Petersfield's market is first documented in 1232, when Earl Gilbert's widow, Isabel Marshal, and her second husband (1231), Richard Earl of Cornwall, brother to Henry III, made a legal challenge against a market at Chalton, about five miles to the south, as detrimental. The market at Chalton, an estate of the Honour of Leicester since 1107, had been licensed in 1224, so the challenge was somewhat tardy, and may have owed much to the fact that it had descended to Simon de Montfort, Cornwall's enemy, suggesting that not just economics but also politics could factor into market conflicts. There is no evidence Gilbert de Clare had, during the last years of his life, raised any objection to the market, then held by its licensee, Ranulph de Blondeville, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, caretaker of the earldom of Leicester, a man perhaps too powerful to go up against. When the estates of the earldom were restored to Montfort in 1232, Richard may have wished to act promptly before Simon could renew the license (which, strictly speaking, had lapsed when Henry III came into his majority). As so often, the outcome of the challenge is unknown. Petersfield's fairs and Saturday market are documented as still operational in 1403 and settlement was expanding into common fields to the west side of the marketplace, church, and pre-burghal village (for part of which archaeology has found evidence immediately west of The Square); yet, notwithstanding whatever benefits the Winchester model may have afforded it, Petersfield's prominence as a market town must have remained minor – the value of the market being estimated at 4s. in 1372, and that of the fairs a meagre 2s.6d – for the borough was only ever invited to send representatives to a single parliament (1306), its burgesses obtained no further commercial advantages until Henry V granted toll exemption (1415), and it was slow in winning any further concessions from its mesne lords.

Two of Earl Richard de Clare's sons, by Maud de Lacy daughter of an Earl of Lincoln, are evidenced as market licensees. A younger son, known as Bogo de Clare, evidently went into the church, although there is no record of him having been ordained into holy orders. He became notorious for accumulating, partly through the encouragement and influence of his competitive and litigious mother, livings in some two dozen parishes, along with other ecclesiastical offices, bringing him in a sizable annual income; his death (1294) is recorded in the Lanercost Chronicle in association with a scathing (though one-sided) criticism of him as a pluralist who had no real interest in the Church but only its revenues. Bogo owed his advancement in part to his capable services to the king; a surviving account of his travel expenses in 1284 [C.H. Hartshorne, Illustrations of domestic manners during the reign of Edward I, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, vol.18 (1862), pp.66-74] shows him travelling around, particularly in northern England and Wales, on royal business, and his wardrobe accounts from the same period reveal huge expenditures on his London household. In 1291 he was holding the valuable post of treasurer of York Minster when the king granted him a market and three-day fair for Tollerton, one of the cathedral's Yorkshire manors; however, rather than pursuing a family tradition, Bogo may simply have been continuing a tradition of past (and future) treasurers, for there is some indication that treasurer John Maunsel had, in 1256, acquired such a licence, so that Bogo was only renewing it. Maunsel was, like Bogo, a man who had advanced in wealth and status through demonstrated competence as a king's clerk, judge, and diplomat – to the point where Henry III appointed him chancellor of England (1246-47) – and was rewarded with multiple ecclesiastical benefices throughout the country. It was as parson of Wigan (Lancs.) that Maunsel, in 1245, acquired licence for a market and fair at Wigan, apparently in conjunction with founding a town there (around a triangular marketplace formed by a convergence of roads near the church), for Henry III granted Wigan a liber burgus charter in 1247. But it was as a manorial lord that he obtained similar licences for Broughton and Meonstoke (both Hants.) on the same occasion in 1247.

Richard IV de Clare's eldest son, Gilbert IV (1243-1295), 6th Earl of Hertford, 7th Earl of Gloucester, 3rd Lord of Glamorgan, 9th Lord of Clare, still slightly underage at his father's death, took Clare fortunes to their apogee. He was first married to Henry III's niece and, though initially espousing the rebellion of Simon de Montfort, soon switched to the royalist cause. His extensive estates – over two hundred English manors, not to mention a good chunk of Wales – included a number of towns and markets already mentioned above, discussed below, or, like Thaxted, dealt with elsewhere in this study.

Besides the family's home base at Clare, their Suffolk possessions – which were largely concentrated in western Suffolk – included the manor of Woodhall, a few miles south-east of Clare and within the borough of Sudbury. Sudbury might have been part of the original Honour of Clare, or acquired (or reacquired) by the family from the Honour of Gloucester [The issue is discussed by W.A. Copinger, The Manors of Suffolk: The Hundreds of Blabergh and Blackbourn, London: Fisher Unwin, 1905, pp.231-32], although Ward [op.cit., p.72] has it as part of the maritagium Amice Fitz-William brought to Richard III de Clare. Woodhall's toll-yielding market is not heard of until Gilbert's inquisition(s) post mortem (1295/96), though it was likely much older. The post mortem (1360) on Elizabeth de Burgh, whose share of the Clare inheritance included Woodhall and Sudbury, mentions not only the market but two fairs at Woodhall, although there is no surviving record of any of these being licensed. The manor's common pasture known as Portmanescroft might suggest an ancient market role for Woodhall and perhaps even a possible urban character, but it is more likely the portmen were burgesses of Sudbury, whose own market is evidenced by Domesday. Woodhall's market provoked no complaint from Sudbury of unfair competition; it must have been a modest event and, besides, the Clares were lords of both. An undated charter of Richard IV de Clare granted to his burgesses of Sudbury the fee-farm of the Portmannecroft and another pasture in what was described as the northern suburb of Sudbury, for 40s. a year.

Elizabeth de Burgh confirmed this her grandfather's charter in 1330. She is credited with an urban expansion initiative begun in the 1330s, aimed at refocusing the borough away from the old marketplace, next to the manor-house, to an area around a splendid new church erected on a rise and facing down onto a long open area to which the market was transferred, subsequently known as Market Hill. By 1369 the Duke of Clarence, widower of Elizabeth's like-named grand-daughter, was farming out Woodhall's market. In 1382, following the death of Edmund de Mortimer (husband of the daughter of Elizabeth II and Clarence), the fairs were still operational but of the market the calendared record mentions only two rent-paying stalls, though reflection of the growth of the cloth-making industry in Sudbury as a whole is shown by the presence at Woodhall of a fulling mill and the licensing of weavers' looms. The 1425 post mortem on a later Edmund de Mortimer clarifies that commerce had continued to thrive at Sudbury/Woodhall, from which 3d. rent was due from each of 62 stalls, for a total of 15s. 6d., while the tolls of market and fairs were still being farmed out, to the burgesses, for £10, as were two 'permanent' stalls (meaning selds) for 10s., and 12 workshops of weavers generated a total of 3s.4d in rent; the borough chamberlain for 1353/54 had accounted for 56 stalls, 2 selds, 22 licenses of broad looms, and 9 of small looms. [C. Sperling, A Short History of the Borough of Sudbury, Sudbury, 1896, pp.15-16, 21] Woodhall manor was north of the borough; the presence, near Woodhall's south end, of St. Gregory's church (one of the Woodhall fairs being at the feast of that saint), from which leads north-eastwards a 'New Street', could hint at the possibility of planned development, though not necessarily urban. An area known as The Croft lay between the church and the River Stour, but the name Portman's Croft is now associated with an area further south along the riverbank, beside one of the mills, and south-west of the old burh defences.

Gilbert IV's post mortem also deals with the manor of Bletchingley (Surr.) and the toll and stallage from its market, valued at 16s., which in 1325 was estimated at 14s.; his father's post mortem had covered the borough separately from the manor and refers to the market only obliquely, in estimating the value of rents from stalls and shops at £2. Following the Conquest Bletchingley was held by Richard de Tonbridge, an alias by which Richard Fitz-Gilbert was commonly known; it was probably he who erected the first castle there, its keep rebuilt in stone in the twelfth century. Bletchingley was the most valuable of the family's demesne estates in that county and the castle became its main administrative base there, at the expense of Tonbridge. Though numerous, the family's Surrey estates were scattered rather than concentrated in one particular area, but most lay around three main roads crossing the eastern part of the county: one connecting London and Chichester, a second the Sussex coast with the Thames Valley, and the third being the Pilgrims Way (a modern name) between Winchester and Canterbury; Bletchingley was near a point where the second and third of these crossed. The castle there was, however, not strengthened much beyond the needs of a fortified residence; it was sacked and severely damaged in 1264 (after Gilbert's brief rebellion), but left to decay rather than be rebuilt. The first reference to a borough there is in 1226, though not such as to indicate a recent origin, and there are other references to burgage tenure there later in the century; it is probable this was a Clare foundation. Absence of a market licence hints at a market of long standing, yet its distance from the castle, built on a ridge to the west, argues against a castle-town.

The town was founded around a crossroads by the church, where the through-road connecting Reigate (a market borough of the rival house of the de Warenne earls of Surrey, one of whom had laid out a town beside the existing castle around the late twelfth century) and Sevenoaks (a rural market) crossed a road skirting the manorial boundary; The former became Bletchingley's High Street. Burgage plots – evident mainly along the north side of the High Street and at the crossroads end of the south side – may have superseded part of the Domesday church-based village; the linear-plan redevelopment to introduce a burghal component probably dates to late twelfth or early thirteenth century, for the funnel-shaped market (part of the High Street) was on the site of what is known to have been a field around mid-twelfth century. What little we hear of the town does not suggest it of any great importance, and it was left to Gilbert IV de Clare to furnish it with a fair licence in 1283, perhaps granted as a sign of royal favour because he had volunteered to lead a royal campaign of conquest into Wales. The market is not mentioned after 1325, however, and it may have lost out in competition with that at Reigate; the loss of the castle, the failure of male Clare heirs, and the problems of the fourteenth century contributed to economic decline.

Gilbert IV's post mortem further shows him the tenant of the manor of Brasted (Kent) and recipient of its market tolls, held of the archbishops of Canterbury in return for a ceremonial service as butler at their enthroning. A village of some size, with church and two mills, is recorded in Domesday, when held of the archbishop by the sheriff. The manor appears to have been another long-standing Clare family possession, for Tonbridge was held by similar service, although the terms of the service had been disputed between the earls (who felt they held of the king) and the archbishops and only settled by an agreement of 1264. Brasted was situated on the same Reigate-Sevenoaks road that passed through Bletchingley, though closer to Sevenoaks; since off this east-west road ran several roads between London and the south coast, if is not surprising that a number of markets were established along it. Brasted is first referred to as a borough in 1227, but its promotion from village may not have occurred very long before then – absence of a licence possibly placing it before the time of John, although an early twelfth century grant of borough status would have been considered as including the right to a market. In 1230 Gilbert's father, Richard de Clare, upon succeeding to the earldom, acted to defend in court Brasted's market against that of Westerham, just slightly to the west, for which Thomas de Camvill had obtained a licence in 1227 – the coincidence of dates may be significant. Westerham's market was set for Wednesday, while Brasted's was on Thursday, so a detrimental competition case was warranted, on grounds of both geographical and chronological proximity. That Richard's challenge may have succeeded is possible from the fact that, the Camvill line having died out and Westerham having come to the abbey of Westminster (1292), a new market licence was issued in 1351 for a Monday event there; however, this abbey, since not a Camvill heir, had legal obligation to renew the licence, even though it waited almost sixty years after being granted the manor by the king, until some abbot decided the manor could also profit from a fair, which was included in the new licence. Gilbert's first marriage having foundered and his invasion of Wales having met defeat, he married Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I. This was less a sign of continued royal favour than recognition of his importance within baronial ranks, and a ploy by Edward to bring the Clare estates into the royal orbit; though Edward granted Gilbert additional estates as a dowry, he required Gilbert to surrender all his lands to the king, who granted them back jointly to Gilbert and Joan, with the proviso that only her children could inherit. Joan's post mortem (1307) shows Brasted among her dower holdings, along with its market tolls; but nothing further is heard of the market and Brasted later reverted to a village.

A slightly different situation presents itself in the case of Brenchley (several miles south-east of Tonbridge), whose market likely dated from the pre-licensing era, as it was a Sunday event held in the churchyard. In 1264 Gilbert de Clare is said to have seized it from Robert de Crevequer. This was related in part to shifting Clare loyalties in the context of the Montfortian rebellion, but was no mere act of rapine, for the Crevequers must have held Brenchley of the Clares. In 1264 Robert de Crevequer had only just succeeded his deceased grandfather, Hamo; still a young man, he aligned with the Montfortian party and, although not known to have played a prominent role in hostilities, he fought at Lewes. Possibly, once Gilbert abandoned his early Montfortian loyalties, Robert had refused to do homage to Gilbert after inheriting Brenchley, or perhaps the Clares considered that Hamo had held only for life. In any case, Gilbert took advantage of the situation to assert his rights over Brenchley, anticipating the official forfeiture of rebels lands that followed in 1265. Hamo de Crevequer is seen as the tenant of Brenchley in 1217, and in 1230 he purchased a fair licence – not the act of someone who considered his possession determinate – while also altering the location of the market and its day to Saturday, although perhaps without improving its commercial viability. Although Robert had reconciled with the king by 1268, he was preoccupied with a losing battle to recover more important family estates, and his name is no longer seen in connection with Brenchley.

The post mortem on Richard de Clare in 1262 shows him as lord of the manor of Elding and its appurtenance of Brenchley market, which yielded 24s. in rents of stalls and shops; by what right was not stated by the jurors. Gilbert's own post mortem likewise shows him as tenant of Aldington (as the editors of the calendar rendered it) and of 10s. income from stallage at Brenchley market, as well as a mill at Brenchley, the jury this time venturing the belief that it had long been part of the Honour of Clare – an argument subsequently asserted by the earl himself before quo warranto proceedings in 1312. The manor in question might have been Aldington, which belonged to the See of Canterbury, but this lay far from Brenchley. Rather, it was almost certainly Yalding (six miles north of Brenchley, though the parishes are contiguous), which was one of the estates given by the Conqueror to Richard Fitz-Gilbert; Brenchley's church was a chapelry of Yalding. Gilbert's widow and her son, the last Clare earl, were both in possession of the stallage at the time of their deaths, though the implication of their post mortems is that they had at Brenchley an unlicensed market without any right to collect tolls. This situation was rectified in 1318 when one of the last earl's daughters and her husband, Hugh de Audley, acquired a market/fair licence for Yalding manor. This might represent just a renewal of the franchise connected with Brenchley or a removal of that franchise to Yalding proper; however, it could also have been quite separate from Brenchley's institutions, since Yalding's market was to take place mid-week, and the fair around the June feast-day of the saint to which Yalding's church was dedicated, while Brenchley's fair was a November event – again linked to the dedication of the church there – suggesting a deliberate attempt to complement rather than replace or compete with Brenchley's commerce.

The post mortem documentation of Gilbert IV's possessions in Gloucestershire do not reference his markets at Fairford and Thornbury, although we hear of toll revenues from his market at Tewkesbury. At quo warranto proceedings in 1287 Gilbert claimed to have held all three markets from time immemorial as part and parcel of his manorial rights; in actuality the manors came to the Clares as part of the Honour of Gloucester. The market at Chipping Sodbury, in the same county, was not challenged, presumably because the Clares were not the immediate lords, market licences having been obtained and renewed by members of the Crassus and Weyland families, one of which is more likely to have founded the borough in the first half of the thirteenth century. The town of Tewkesbury is documented independently of the manor; rightly so, for it had borough status at the time of Domesday. Its market is recorded therein as having been established by the Conqueror's queen and was said to generate an income of 11s.8d, despite being serviced by barely a dozen burgesses – though by Gilbert's time (his widow's post mortem reveals) there were 70 burgesses, holding over twice that many burgages in what was described as a villa mercatoria. Tewkesbury also had a fair prior to the town coming into Clare hands, and there is no indication the Clares did anything to develop the local economy further, though the Despenser husband of one of the daughters of the last earl acquired licence for a second fair in 1324.

Thornbury, the regional location of the court of the Honour of Gloucester, was dealt with just as a manor, but with explicit reference to burgage rents and to annual toll revenues of 20s; its market was recorded in Domesday and the Earl of Cornwall, while in temporary possession through marriage to Gilbert III's widow, is recorded as obtaining a fair licence for it in 1239, although this may only have been a transfer of an existing fair into his own name. But the town seems to have been a slightly later foundation by Gilbert IV's father, Richard IV, who endowed it with a borough charter ca.1252, modelling the burgesses' liberties on those of Tewkesbury, and his post mortem (1262) also refers to it as a borough. Thornbury's plan indicates the town was a southern extension to a church-based village, with burgage plots laid out around streets converging on a marketplace. The post mortem on Gilbert's widow, Joan, in 1307 described Thornbury as a market town with 60 burgesses in tenure of 100 burgages, while those on later successors to the Clares, in 1387 and 1392, referred to it as a free borough with its own court, independent of that of the manor, and a Saturday market held in the borough, though there is no mention of a fair.

On the other hand, Fairford – which, as its name indicates, grew up at a river crossing (on the route from Cirencester to Lechlade, then on to London) – was treated only as a manor in Gilbert's post mortem. That on Joan described it too as a market town, with 68 burgesses holding, apparently, a like number of burgages, and income from a fair and market tolls, yielding 5s. and 10s. respectively. About two decades later (ca.1327) the total value of the tolls had risen to £2 6s.8d., one of several indications of growing prosperity before the setback of plague; the post mortem on Hugh le Despenser (1349) describes Fairford similarly but estimated the value of tolls at only 13s.4d. The town-plan shows evidence of the planned plantation of a burghal component. Borough status is implied in 1221, when Fairford sought representation at the eyre separate from its hundred (though the judges rejected the plea), and explicit reference to the borough is found in Richard de Clare's post mortem; but reference to a burgage there ca.1190 rules out the Clares as possible founders. Fairford's market was mentioned as early as the time of Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester (1122-47) – with trading likely attracted to the vicinity of the ford from much earlier date – and the crossing had been bridged by late twelfth century, so it is likely Robert or his son, William Fitz-Robert, founded the borough. Earl Robert was imposing tolls in the market before his father, Henry I, made a formal grant of market rights to one Remphrey, said to be their falconer, and presumably Robert's sub-tenant in Fairford. A fair was in operation before 1287, when Gilbert de Clare asserted it was of long tradition; but whether this was a Clare enhancement or preceded their lordship we do not know.

This same Gilbert de Clare, whose inquisition post mortem, along with that of his widow Joan, have given us the best evidence of the number of towns and markets amassed by generations of the family, at his death in 1295 left three daughters and an underage son, another Gilbert (1291-1314). Their mother, Joan, much younger than Gilbert IV, soon and secretly remarried a social inferior; the latter was eventually allowed to assume the title of earl, as the king's fury over the marriage abated. It is in this couple's time (1298/99) that we first hear of an unlicensed market at Bottisham (Cambs.), the entry for that manor in Gilbert IV's post mortem record not noticing any market. The market had perhaps arisen to try to take advantage of commerce using the Cambridge-Newmarket road. Bottisham was an early acquisition of the Clares, stemming from Richard Fitz-Gilbert's marriage to Rohese Giffard, daughter of the Earl of Buckingham, who was given Bottisham after the Conquest. Its market must have been a modest affair, for it did not feature in Joan's post mortem entry for Bottisham either, though it is recorded as passing down into Mortimer hands.

Not until Joan's death in 1307 did young Gilbert V come into his earldoms and the lordships of Clare and Glamorgan. He wasted little time before his first initiative in developing the commercial potential of his estates. Taking advantage of his kinship to the new king, he obtained a market/fair licence for the Dorset manor of Tarrant Gunville, which lay close to the road between Salisbury and Blandford Forum, and was one of several villages taking its name from the River Tarrant. How and when the family came by this manor is unclear; we hear of it in the post mortem of Gilbert's grandfather, Richard de Clare, and that of Gilbert's father additionally covers Tarrant Rushton, a few miles further south, said to be held of the Honour of Cranborne (Dorset), which belonged to the earldom of Gloucester and was the administrative centre of the honour of that earldom's holdings in Dorset and Wiltshire. Cranborne itself – hundred, manor, and borough – was also acquired as part of the Honour of Gloucester. Although neither his inquisition post mortem, nor those of his son or daughter-in-law, mention commercial institutions or borough at Cranborne, Gilbert IV, in 1280, had claimed before the eyre justices both market and fair as among his manorial liberties there, Richard IV's name has been associated with a fair grant, and a market reeve is heard of in 1330 [Peter Bellamy and John Davey, Cranborne Historic Urban Characterisation, Dorset Historic Towns Project, 2011 p.25]. Cranborne has been overlooked by the Gazetteer and the Handlist]. A borough, with 45 burgesses, is seen in the post mortem of Gilbert V, and again mentioned in 1316. What little we know of it suggests a recent foundation, perhaps by Richard IV, extending a rural settlement with a burghal component; topographic evidence indicates regularized plots along either side of a wide east-west market street, or perhaps a triangular green, with a north-south through-road, connecting Poole and Old Sarum, diverted to cross the marketplace. It was left to Edward IV to licence Cranborne's market, though at that date it was said to have existed from time immemorial. Tarrant Gunville, which seems to have been associated with Cranborne, had been furnished with a licensed market and fair in 1233 by Brian de Insula, one of the most able administrators of King John and the young Henry III, notably as chief justice of the royal forests, but he had died the following year without male heir. Gilbert's licence of 1308 has the look of a renewal but with slight adjustments to the market-day and fair date. If so, there is no evidence the retooling was successful in improving Tarrant Gunville's prospects.

The Clare family's Dorset holdings also included two further boroughs. One was the port-town of Weymouth, temporary custody of which (along with its parent manor) came to Richard IV in the context of the baronial war of Henry III's reign, and whose possession Richard thereafter declined to relinquish [Ward, op.cit., pp.19, 61-62]. The other, Wareham, had come to the Clares through the Gloucester earldom. Of these, only Wareham's market tolls were thought worth mentioning by the inquisition post mortem jurors.

Wareham was an ancient settlement site that was, following the Saxon conquest, a royal estate with an industrial centre nearby, and the location of a minster church and later a mint, though archaeology has not found much evidence of Saxon trade there. It was probably Alfred who converted Wareham – in a strategic location atop a low ridge bounded by two rivers that shortly emptied into Poole Harbour – into a burh, introducing a grid-plan street layout; the presence of several parish churches suggests a sizable population and thriving economy. Domesday recognized Wareham as a borough, and in 1066 it was in fact Dorset's largest town, with 285 houses; over half of these had been lost by 1086, probably due to the Norman seizure of the town and subsequent imposition of a castle overwriting much of the populous southwest quarter of the Saxon town, near the quayside – Wareham perhaps being a relatively important port at that period. The market was likely held in the two main cross-streets, with a focus at their crossroads; it was too old to need a licence, as was a fair, first heard of in 1200. Near the crossroads a church dedicated to St. Peter may have been a Norman foundation intended to serve market-users, and it is possible that Wareham, as a Saxon stronghold, was subjected to the same policy of domination as towns such as Norwich and Colchester, with the introduction of castle close to commercial facilities, Norman colonisation (hypothetical), and cultural agencies (notably a Benedictine priory). However, an unproductive hinterland (mainly heath), further damage suffered from assaults during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, the silting up of its rivers, and the rise of Poole as a port and Corfe as military base, somewhat offset Wareham's participation in the general growth of commerce, and by the time it came to the Clares its economy looks to have been in decline, its market's reach little more than local [Peter Bellamy and John Davey, Wareham Historic Urban Characterisation, Dorset Historic Towns Project, 2011, section 5.3].

By contrast, Weymouth developed, from the early twelfth century, within the manor of Wyke Regis as a coastal trading port. The manorial lord, the Priory of St. Swithun, Winchester, obtained a market/fair licence in 1248 and followed up in 1252 with a grant of borough status to Weymouth, which was little more than a linear street parallel to the quayside. However, Richard IV's illicit possession of manor and borough was conceded, before 1259, by the priory, in exchange for Clare lands in Hampshire, and later attempts to challenge the validity of this agreement under duress were unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Richard de Clare's victory was tempered by the rise of neighbouring Melcombe, in a different manor but looking out onto the same bay; it too was urbanizing and offering competition as a port. Edward I fostered this by giving Melcombe a borough charter and re-planning its layout on a grid pattern, while Edward II made it a staple port for the wool trade. The two rivals would much later amalgamate. Thus, in neither the case of Wareham nor Weymouth do we see Clare initiative in developing market towns, although they saw the revenue potential in both.

Later in his life, Gilbert V granted the residents of Caerphilly, a small settlement that his father had established in 1271 around his castle, exemption from tolls in the market there; this may have been an incentive to attract settlers back to the town some time after a devastating Welsh assault on the castle which, according to the post mortem on Gilbert's father, had left 80 burgages destroyed, so that he had lost the 6d. annual rent due from each. Gilbert made the same concession to the residents of Llantrisant in 1312 – again, possibly to assist resurgence following severe damage from the Welsh – though only for a seven-year period, and this may have been in conjunction with seigneurial recognition of a market there; yet Llantrisant had been a borough for at least half a century, perhaps established, or upgraded, in conjunction with the building or rebuilding of the castle. The earliest Norman castle is generally attributed to the pre-Clare earls of Gloucester, though their hold there was tenuous. Richard de Clare had rebuilt it in the early 1240s, along with the church. Llantrisant's initial civilian settlement and its church were protected within the bailey, but in 1307 there were said to be 145 burgages, and it is not evident whether even Richard's expanded fortification could accommodate that many. It remains unclear whether the market town was a Clare foundation or in existence when the Clares acquired the Glamorgan lordship. Newport in Monmouthshire, which had 228 burgages in 1307 (198 said in 1296 to have been destroyed by recent warfare), is another castle-town which had borough status before Clare acquisition, although its market and fair are not documented until the early fourteenth century.

In addition to all these holdings, Gilbert V also received (1309) as a gift from Edward II, to ensure his continued loyalty, the Norfolk manors of Aylsham, Causton, and Fakenham; but these were already furnished with markets and fairs and no initiative there by Gilbert is evidenced.

The above survey, though not comprehensive (the Clare holdings in Ireland and Normandy, for example, have not even been touched upon), suffices to show that the Clares came to own a number of English towns and other places furnished with markets and fairs, but that only a few of these seem to have been of their own foundation or licensing. Like most manorial lords, they focused on developing their regional bases – in the case of the Clares, notably, but not exclusively, Clare itself and Tonbridge. An exception was the Honour of Gloucester, whose lands were widespread and whose unofficial caput. had previously been, and remained under the Clares, at Bristol; although the town itself was retained by the monarchy from Henry I's time, the Clares had unrealized ambitions to recover it [Ward, op.cit., pp.76-78]. This development of caput markets had as much to do with assuring their households and their local workforces with convenient access to basic goods and services, and of assisting their tenants to obtain cash to pay their rents, as it did with diversifying seigneurial financial portfolios. Yet that diversification entailed holding market towns in various parts of the realm, which could take advantage of changing trade patterns and economic specializations, although whether the Clares were conscious of this is uncertain – their aim, as that of all the nobility, was primarily to grow their landed holdings, which in turn fed wealth and status.

Somewhat the same, in regard to the balance of founding versus acquiring, is true of the Clares' degree of initiative with their Welsh possessions, even though the imperative to establish English-dominated military and commercial centres was greater there and the Clares appear more active in town-founding as an adjunct to extending and consolidating their dominion. Although Cowbridge and Trellech – two of the most important towns in medieval Wales – were urbanized under Clare lordship, and Cardigan may have had its start as a castle-town of Gilbert I (though never securely held by the Clares), the origins of markets or towns at Cardiff, Caerleon, Kenfig, and Neath cannot be clearly attributed to the Clares who came to own them, though Gilbert IV de Clare furnished Neath with a fair in 1280. Gilbert's most famous initiative in Wales was the construction of the impressive Caerphilly castle, to further the extension of his territory in Glamorgan.

This is not to say that the contribution of the Clares to the expansion of the market network and the progress of urbanization was negligible, but rather that it was no greater than we might expect from one of the most prominent and ancient of the baronial houses, and one seeking to extend its influence and enlarge its incomes. None of the heads of the Clare family evince the avid taste for founding towns and markets that is seen in some other English magnates; they were, after all, primarily soldiers and courtiers, increasingly actors on the stage of high politics, in part because of their widening landed interests. Rather, most of them made a modest contribution as the Clare estates were progressively built up, generation upon generation.

It was the role on the national stage that brought the Clare era to an end. Gilbert V de Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford and 8th of Gloucester, was killed at Bannockburn in 1314, at the age of 23. His marriage to a daughter of the Earl of Ulster had produced no surviving children, so the earldoms were, for the moment, extinguished and the vast Clare estates divided among his three sisters in 1317. By that date all of these, two already widowed, had been married off by their uncle, Edward II, to his favourites, these marriages proving a contributing factor in precipitating the political conflicts of that reign. The eldest daughter was the wife of Hugh le Despenser junior, whose share of the inheritance included the lordship of Glamorgan; Hugh sought to expand his gains by seizing or extorting lands inherited by his sisters-in-law. He also used his prominent position at court to develop parts of the Clare inheritance, such as by acquiring an extension to the fair at Great Marlow and adding fairs at Tewkesbury and Burford. The middle daughter's husband, Hugh de Audley, who would later be earl of Gloucester, did the same at Tonbridge (once it had been recovered from Despenser), Yalding, and Little Brickhill (Bucks.). The last already had a market licensed (1228) by a former lord, physician to the king, before Richard IV de Clare had acquired the manor ca.1257; it may have been the original market licensee who established a burghal component there, although we have no mention of the burgages until 1472. At about the same period as Despenser and Audley were enhancing their new acquisitions, Bartholomew de Badlesmere – who had married a daughter of the younger son of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester – obtained, on the same occasion in 1315, both a fair licence for Thaxted and a market/fair licence for Sundon, a Bedfordshire manor that had come to Gilbert III as maritagium of Isabel Marshal, though had then been diverted for some decades to Richard of Cornwall, Isabel's second husband, which would have hindered commercial development there; it is doubtful the Sundon commercial institutions lasted long after Badlesmere's execution for rebellion.

Gilbert V's youngest sister, Elizabeth de Burgh (going by the name of the first of her three husbands), did not remarry after her last husband died (1322). Having been assigned the greater part of the eastern estates of the Clares, along with manors in Dorset in which she showed relatively little interest, she styled herself 'Lady of Clare', and used her considerable wealth to maintain her household in East Anglia, one of her principal residences there being at Great Bardfield, which she seems particularly to have favoured [Jennifer Ward, "Noble Consumption in the 14th century: Supplying the Household of Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare (d.1360)" Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, vol. 41 (2005/08), p.447]

Dr. Ward's study of the extensive de Burgh household records that have survived show that Bardfield's market benefited from her patronage, but could not have survived were that its principal sources of custom. For most of the grain required to feed her sizable household was sourced from her manorial demesne, and when additional was needed her officials might purchase from the closest market – usually that of Bardfield or Clare – but increasingly they favoured individual suppliers rather than local markets, as her purchasers acquired better knowledge of the regional farmers and churchmen with whom good deals could be made. Furthermore, she had the means to send her agents further afield, such as to the market at Wisbech (Cambs.) which was a superior source of oats, or to London. The same was true in regard to supplies of meat, which were obtained as livestock, either from the Lady's demesne and parks or purchased from local markets, though increasingly purchased and brought in from the Midlands or Wales, where prices were lower (even factoring in the cost of driving the animals to East Anglia) or quality higher. In regard to provisions not available from demesne sources, such as fish, wine, spices, and cloth, local markets were again largely bypassed, by patronizing fairs, the more mercantile East Anglian towns, and London. Relationships were formed with particular merchants who were found to be of reputable status, reliable, and suppliers of quality goods. One such was Thomas Coteler of Ipswich, who made repeated sales of wine, herring, spices, salt, and iron between 1338 and 1345, and was sufficiently valued as a supplier that he received a Clare livery. Another was John atte Forde of Colchester, a prominent member of Colchester's governing class, who supplied the Clare household with wine on various occasions in the 1350s; though John's business activities are otherwise little evidenced, his residence incorporated a tavern and he was accused of infringing the wine assize in 1351 and 1353. Bulk purchases of fish were made at Yarmouth, at both herring fair and other times, at Lynn and other ports, or at London and other markets of regional importance, with local markets again ignored unless additional supplies were needed at short notice. Fairs of eastern England were the main source of cloth, furs, spices, and other specialized foodstuffs, but were increasingly superseded by purchases at London. Even minor daily needs were not usually acquired in Great Bardfield's market, preference being given to those at Sudbury or Great Dunmow; the reason for this is not clear, but it could be related to quality issues, established relationships with suppliers, or simply that the Clare household had enough purchasing agents that it could afford to send them out on minor medium-distance shopping errands.

Smaller households of local gentry were probably less discerning and patronized Great Bardfield's market somewhat more than did Elizabeth de Burgh. That market doubtless served primarily the needs of Bardfield's townspeople and the farmers or labourers of the manor and neighbouring manors, although even these likely made use of other markets and fairs in the vicinity. That Great Bardfield's was not that important a commercial centre, in the scale of such things, is suggested by the fact that none of its lords ever bothered to furnish it with a fair licence.

Whether a planned burghal component was inserted into Great Bardfield is unclear; no morphological analysis of the settlement has been made to ascertain if burgage-type plots were present. Richard Britnell ["Burghal characteristics of Market Towns in Medieval England", Durham University Journal, no.73 (1981), p.149] noted there a number of fines relating to landless messuages, which he considered a possible indicator of burgages. These are encountered at Bardfield from the early thirteenth century onwards; one was alienated by a Great Bardfield resident named Robert le Marchaunt in 1314, while another (undated but early fourteenth century) was conveyed by a dyer to a fuller. This is not strong evidence, but bolsters the references to borough rents, as noted above, dating back to the late thirteenth century. The inquisition post mortem on Elizabeth de Burgh (1360) refers to the manor incorporating a borough from which she received 100s. in rent; that there is no mention of the market may be significant. It would not be surprising if Elizabeth had granted the burgesses of Great Bardfield, a place for which she had some fondness, the power to administer borough and market in return for a fee-farm, just as she appears to have done at Buntingford, and as perhaps had been done earlier at Standon by Richard IV. Such is surely the implication in the inquisition post mortem (1369) on the Duke of Clarence, which refers to the burgesses corporately paying 100s. for the marketplace – the same value was estimated for Clare's market. Woodhall's market was likewise being farmed out, though whether to its community or to an individual is not specified. The post mortem on Roger de Mortimer in 1398 references Bardfield's market and fair, but not any borough, though at the rather late date of 1459 the borough of Bardfield is mentioned, alongside the manor proper, among various estates of minor consequence designated by Henry VI to furnish an income for the duchess of York and her children.

We cannot even say with certainty where Great Bardfield's market was held. The parish church – whose oldest fabric dates to around the close of the twelfth century, with rebuilding of some elements in the fourteenth – and the adjacent manor-house, on slightly higher ground than the village, together with the nucleus of habitations, were located around the junctions of roads from Thaxted and Castle Hedingham with the London-Suffolk through-route. At two of these junctions were triangular spaces that are possible candidates for a marketplace; one lay at the end of the street leading past church and manor-house, the other at the end of the later High Street, where it met the street (later Bridge Street) heading north to the crossing of the Pant, on the other side of which was a secondary hamlet (Bridge End). We might speculate that both represent marketplaces of different eras: the former created by one of the first Clare lords, or already in existence when they acquired Bardfield; the latter part of a planned burghal component introduced by a later Clare. That latter space was a particular focus for residences, many with surviving late medieval fabric, and seems the likelier candidate for marketplace; houses encroached upon it in the sixteenth century. The High Street was, by the Tudor period, the most built-up part of Great Bardfield, and the stretch of it closest to the posited marketplace is the best prospect for representing any burghal component planted, perhaps too with the east side of Bridge Street facing the marketplace. No market is held in Great Bardfield today, nor has it borough status, though the history of its decline is uncharted.

go to previous market town
go to Medieval Towns main menu
main menu

      powered by FreeFind

go to next market town
next town

Created: December 31, 2018. Last update: February 2, 2021 © Stephen Alsford, 2018-2021