Illustration courtesy of lookandlearn.com
Planted market towns were either chartered by the monarch, in exchange for services to the crown, or by the Lord of the Manor. These charters granted villages the right to hold markets on certain days and to self-regulate market activity. Regional district markets were held once or twice a week, while daily markets were more prevalent in larger cities. There were not to be any markets within 2-3 days of each other in different locations, in order to eliminate severe market competition.
Medieval markets boasted foodstuffs and goods and products, often the surplus of the farmer or craftsman. They originated in churchyards as events of business, worship and fun.
Locally produced goods at market such as food, cloth, leather, coal, salt and fish were offered by “chapmen”, or itinerant sellers. Merchants handled goods from farther away such as food, wool, wine, cloth and luxuries, though the offerings of small towns were limited.
By the mid-16th century, local markets were declining in popularity. They were increasingly supplanted by permanent shops that provided more stable and regular trading hours.
All of this trade created economic success for market towns. Today we can see the fruits of this success in the beautiful buildings that were built and still stand today in towns throughout England. These include houses, shops, coaching inns, town halls and local churches. Many of these market towns continue to hold markets today.