English Market towns and “markets”- Shopping in England has, of course, changed since the Tudor and Stuart era. But chartered market towns still bear the signs of their past. Some of these towns still have active markets, while others only bear some architectural or even archaeological remnants of the space.
Today, the thought of a market town brings to mind the quaint English countryside. A search of “English Market Towns” will produce several listicles that will let you the “best” or “most beautiful” towns. For example, Beaconsfield is described as having and Old Town and a New Town. The Old Town has historic buildings from the town’s market own past which have been turned into pubs and restaurants. The New Town has the modern versions of the market, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Some of these towns even maintain their market crosses, structures that originally marked where the market charter had been granted.
In some modern market towns, you can trace the development of the market to more permanent structures. For example, in the town of Ludlow, the street where the market was initially had moveable stalls, which then became permanent structures. Now, this street is lined with shops that hearken back to the market past.
The lists often focus on small towns, even though cities like London and Manchester are also market towns. It seems that “market town” has taken on another meaning- lovely small English village where you can feel as though you have stepped back in time just a little bit.
Sources: Country Life: The Top Ten Market Towns in England, from Kent to Cumbria
VCH Explore: Market Towns