English Chartered Markets: The Home Counties Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

English Chartered Markets: The Home Counties

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The North | The North Midlands | The South Midlands, East Anglia and Wales | The Home Counties

The markets that are listed are the first established by charter in each county. The charter was usually granted by the monarch to a local noble and it gave a town the right to hold a market in a specified place and upon particular day or days. Many grants were given to formalise an existing (older) right to trade that may have pre-existed as far back as Roman times.

Under King Alfred of Wessex the southern counties became a dominant force. It was effectively the area south of Watling Street1. Later, the Kingdom of Wessex united with the Kingdom of Mercia and established its supremacy in the area of south and central Britain. The oldest market in this region was that of London, established in 650 AD. The year 900 AD saw a new king, Edward I the Elder, who reigned for another 24 years. His reign saw the establishment of new markets: charters were granted to the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Oxfordshire, and Surrey. This was part of the plan to consolidate the achievements of his father Alfred the Great and also to take all the Danish lands south of the Humber back into his kingdom. It is worth noting that the southern counties seem to have had a peaceful transition after the Norman conquest: all the towns listed have market charters that pre-date the Conquest. The reason is that Normans required wealth from the new kingdom, and this area of southern England was its financial powerhouse.

The Market Charter

Market charters had two purposes: first of all, they formalised the market and made it hard for any rival market setting up nearby. The charter did this by granting privileges to the town and the traders - such as exemptions from tolls and taxes - which any rival markets did not enjoy.

Inspeximus and confirmation of Richard II's confirmation of a charter of Richard of Cornwall, granting the burgesses of Tintagel freedom from pontage and stallage throughout Cornwall, a market every Wednesday, and an annual fair for three days beginning on the vigil of St Faith.
From The Charter of Tintagel (Cornwall)1426

Wallingford, Berkshire

Berkshire is regarded as the oldest county as it was founded around the year 840 AD. Its first major settlement was in the Bronze Age, which saw an expansion of population in the area. This led to an increased development of farming and a lasting change to the landscape, with the introduction of large field systems. The next large scale development came with the Romans who established Calleva Attrebatum (Silchester) as the major settlement in the county. The Anglo-Saxon period saw trade expand and the area became a favourite with the Royal families who established many estates in the area. This continued after the Norman conquest and the county is still known as the Royal County Of Berkshire.

Wallingford was originally a Roman settlement at a crossing point on the River Thames. The town that you see today was founded by King Alfred as an important administrative centre. Alfred also built a strong defensive system for the town, established a royal mint and granting the charter in 900. The town accepted the Normans and the transition was peaceful2, however in 1067 Lord Robert D'Oily3 was given the task of building a castle in Wallingford.

Buckingham, Buckinghamshire

The county has been crossed from the earliest times by major roads. The Icknield Way has crossed the county since the Iron age. the Roman roads Watling Street and Akeman Street cross the county, linking the area with London and the north. The first settlements were in the area of Milton Keynes4 and date from the middle Stone Age. The Romans developed the county, establishing a thriving trade and economy. The Anglo-Saxons founded the county and developed trade to such an extent that the vast wealth of the area deserved a special mention in the Domesday Survey. The mainstay of trade has always been agricultural.

Buckingham is situated at an important crossing of the River Great Ouse and close to Watling Street. Although there is some evidence of Roman occupation, the first settlers were probably Anglo-Saxon. The name Buckingham means the meadow of the people of Bucca, the reputed original Anglo Saxon founder of the settlement. From 650, there was a turbulent period of 350 years when the town repeatedly changed between Saxon and Danish rule. This was finally brought to an end during the reign of King Edward the Elder, and the town was granted its charter in 914. Prior to the Norman conquest, the town gained the status of a Royal Borough, with its own mint.

Chipping Hill, Essex

The founder of the kingdom of Essex was Aescwine in 527AD. The name Essex originates from the tribe the East Saxons or East Seaxe who occupied the area around 530 AD. The county has a long history and has the oldest town, Colchester, with a founding date 10 AD, before the Romans. The mainstay of the economy of the county from the earliest times has been farming. Essex is especially famed for its cattle.

The name Chipping is an Old English word dating from the Middle Ages, meaning 'market common'. Chipping Hill is a Saxon settlement on the site of Old Whitham (just to the north of the main road form London to Colchester). The town was granted its charter in 914.

Hertford, Hertfordshire

The first permanent settlements appeared at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Roman arrival saw the establishment of new towns including Verulamium. The Anglo-Saxons were the next group of settlers and one of their new towns was Hertford. When the Normans arrived, they established strongholds at Berkhamsted and Bishop's Stortford. From the earliest times the main industry of the area has been agriculture of all kinds.

The name of the town and county originate from the Anglo-Saxon heort ford - the literal meaning of this is 'a river crossing of deer'. The town was founded on a crossing point of the River Lea and was originally called Hertingfordbury. The town was granted its charter in 912 by Edward The Elder when he created two fortified burghs: Hertford and the neighbouring Bengo. The transition to Norman rule was untroubled and the town acquired a castle a monastery and a mill. Situated on a main north-south route with a navigable river, the town prospered. The name first appears in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1011.

London, Middlesex

Middlesex is named after the Middle Saxons - the first written use of the name was in 704 AD. The economy of the county is based on agriculture; however, all trade was centred on London. The county was one of the least affected by the arrival of the Normans; although order had to be maintained and so castles and strong points were established throughout the county. The Tower of London is the best known.

Most people think mainly of the city of London, rather than associating it with a county5. In 650, when London was granted a market charter, it was part of Essex and was much smaller6, about the size of Basingstoke within the town's Ringway. From Roman times, it was an important centre of trade with a port and important road links. Quite simply London dealt in every known commodity down the ages, as it still does today.

  • To the north-west: Lincoln.
  • To the north-east: Castor St Edmunds Chelmsford and Colchester.
  • To the south: Lympne and Chichester.
  • To the north-west to Brockley Hill.

The city became the economic powerhouse of the country. Even the arrival of the Danes in 750 AD, the retaking of the city in 886 AD by Alfred the Great and the Conquest by the Normans failed to disrupt trade.

Eashing, Surrey

The county has a long history. At the time of the Roman Invasion it was part of the territory of the Atrebates. The Romans built Stane Street through the county, giving the county excellent transport connections from the earliest times. A strong Saxon area, Surrey was one of the last areas to become Christian in 675 AD. Part of the kingdom of Wessex at the time of the Conquest, the prosperity of the county was unaffected by the invasion. Owing to its closeness, the area's prosperity is linked with London; however, the main factor behind the affluence of the county has been agriculture.

Although established as a market in 900, Eashing failed to develop, as it was overshadowed by the development of Godalming just two miles away. Godalming was given a charter 1n 1300 and, due to its location on the London to Portsmouth road, developed rapidly. Eashing is now a quiet village famed for its medieval bridges.

A map of each town mentioned in the entry can be found on map links below. Please use this to get an idea of how the market fitted in the surrounding area. If you zoom out you will see how the markets relate to each other.

1Wessex had risen to dominate this area south of Watling Street by defeating the Danes and establishing the Danelaw (an area controlled by the Danes north of a line between Chester and London marked by Watling Street).2As this was so peaceful the people of the town were allowed the privilege of a 9pm curfew (the normal curfew was 8pm). The town bell still rings at 9pm to mark this.3Also the first governor of Oxford.4This new town's oldest roots date from around 2000 BC, in the area called Blue Bridge.5In fact the City of London itself is now recognised as a separate county.6Bounded by the gates which are shown as Cripplegate, Bishopsgate Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, and Moorgate on the modern map.

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