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Detailed Methodology and Sources

Types of Markets and Fairs
Markets and fairs fall into two categories: prescriptive and granted. Many of the oldest and most successful markets and fairs were held by prescriptive right, that is, by custom. The problem with identifying prescriptive markets and fairs is that evidence is often unavailable before the thirteenth century. For example, a market is first mentioned at Maldon, Essex, in 1287. However, Maldon is known to have been a borough from 916 and to have had a mint in 924-39 and between the 970s and 1100. It seems very likely that a place which was a borough and/or which had a mint operated as a centre of local trade and had a market. This assumption was used to identify Anglo-Saxon and Norman prescriptive markets in the Gazetteer. As at Maldon, it seems very likely that the prescriptive markets which first appear in the records in the thirteenth century had already been trading for several centuries.

The second category of markets and fairs is those set up by a grant. By 1066, the right to establish a market or fair was considered to be a royal franchise. However, it is not until the thirteenth century that there is systematic evidence that the king enforced his right to licence all markets and fairs. From 1199 onwards, royal grants were recorded on the charter rolls. These royal grants are detailed and specific, naming the grantee, the day of the week for the market, or the feast-day and duration of the fair. The location of the market or fair was noted, usually at a manor belonging to the grantee; occasionally, its exact site was specified. A typical charter granted a market and a fair at the same place. From at least the reign of John onwards, the king also insisted on his right to approve any alterations to the timing, duration or location of existing markets and fairs. For example, anyone wishing to change the day of his market was obliged to secure a grant recording this royal licence.

Collection and manipulation of the data
The data was entered directly from the sources into a database using Idealist, 1 on a laptop computer, with separate files for Wales and each English (pre-1974) county. Once checked and edited, this data was then exported into comma-delimited format and then, using a complex merge file, reformatted to produce the printed Gazetteer. It is a version of this that is presented here and which will be updated as further information on markets and fairs comes to hand. The size of the Idealist databases makes them too large and complex to allow much analysis other than basic sorts. Core data have been exported from the Idealist database and loaded into a dBase database which has in turn been linked to a geographical information system (MapInfo) so as not only to perform more detailed analysis to provide answers to a wide range of questions concerning the spatial and temporal spread of these commercial institutions but also to present the results in map form. (Copies of the original Idealist or the truncated dBase databases may be available: please contact the Centre for Metropolitan History

Notes on Sources
Evidence for the Gazetteer is largely taken from printed primary source material, most of which consists of the records of the royal administration. The principle source is the Calendar of Charter Rolls (1227-1516), which provides evidence for most of the grants made across the period. Work on collecting evidence for royal grants made between 1066 and 1199 was a difficult task, as these were not routinely recorded on a designated roll; however, the volumes of Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum were worked through systematically, and information regarding the fines made in return for royal grants was taken from the printed Pipe Rolls. Evidence for several charters and confirmations granted by Henry II was taken from L. Delisle and E. Berger (eds.), Recueil des Actes de Henri II (Paris, 1906-27) and for the many charters granting markets and fairs issued by King John from Rotuli Chartarum (London, 1837). Information regarding grants made during Henry III's campaigns in Poitou during 1242 and in Gascony in 1253-4 was taken from the Gascon rolls. (Rôles Gascons, 1242-54, tome premier, ed. Francisque-Michel, (Paris, 1885); Rôles Gascons, 1254-55, supplement au tome premier, ed. C. Bémont (Paris, 1896).) Although these grants are also supposed to be recorded on the patent rolls, the two sources do not always match up precisely. The Gascon rolls provide evidence for grants of around fifty markets and sixty fairs in 1253-4 alone.

The second largest source for the Gazetteer was the close rolls. (Transcribed for 1204-27 in Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum (2 vols., London, 1833, 1844) and for 1227-72 in the Close Rolls (14 vols, London, 1902-38). Calendared for 1272 to 1509 in the Calendar of Close Rolls, 47 vols., (1892-63).) When the king granted a new market or fair, he often sent a corresponding letter close to the sheriff of the respective county, informing him of the new grant and instructing him to proclaim it in the county court. Comparing these letters close with the information gathered from the charter rolls was therefore a useful checking exercise. As some letters close contain more information than the calendared charters, they provide an important means of identifying problem places and distinguishing between several grants at the same place. For example, the Calendar of Charter Rolls indicates that the prior and convent of Combwell, Kent, were granted a Friday market on 5 February 1232 and a Tuesday market on 27 Feburary 1233. However, the evidence from the close rolls makes it clear that the Tuesday market was intended to replace that on Friday and was not intended to be a second market. Such letters close provide vital information about grants made in the years for which the charter rolls do not survive, for example in 1233-4.

Letters close also provided other key information regarding markets and fairs which was not included in the charter rolls. Firstly, a letter close was sent to the sheriff if a change was made to the timing, duration or location of a market or fair; he occasionally also received orders to shut down a market or fair which was detrimental to neighbouring institutions. Secondly, grants of markets and fairs were made by letter close during the minority of Henry III (1216-27), as it was not possible to issue charters as the king was under age. These grants were only to be effective until the king reached his majority. Thirdly, as the king did not need to grant himself a charter in order to set up his own markets and fairs, or to make changes to them, he simply sent instructions to the relevant sheriff in the form of letters close.

It was difficult to extract information from the printed volumes of the close rolls. As the index of Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum is unsatisfactory, it was necessary to perform a comprehensive, page by page, search for references to markets and fairs. Although some volumes of the printed close rolls have subject indexes, for many others it is necessary to read through the entire index, looking for references to a market or fair under each place name. Moreover, it is unlikely that the indexes to the close rolls are comprehensive.

Additional evidence for the functioning of markets and fairs, and for further prescriptive markets and fairs, was taken from the following sources. Placitorum Abbreviatio (Rec. Comm., 1811), a transcript of the rolls of the justices in eyre, provided information for about twenty places. This usually recorded changing the day of a market from Sunday to a weekday, prompted by the major ecclesiastical campaign in 1200-1 to prohibit trading on Sundays, hitherto a popular market day. Other evidence for markets and fairs was taken from the printed Curia Regis Rolls for the period 1196 to 1243, from Rotuli Litteratum Patentium (Rec. Comm., 1835), and from B.A. Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the Twelfth century: the Inquest of 1185 with illustrative charters and documents (London, 1935).

The Placita de Quo Warranto (Rec. Comm., 1818) provides evidence for markets and fairs in the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III. Anyone claiming the right to hold a market or a fair had to specify by what warrant he made the claim: either by prescriptive right (defined as having been held since the reign of Richard I) or by grant, in which case the charter was often produced in order to reiterate the rights it bestowed. This is an invaluable source, that reveals which markets and fairs were trading and which had never been set up. Reading each case and comparing the material with that collected in the Gazetteer is nevertheless a slow process. Unfortunately, there is no adequate index of Quo Warranto and in the time available it was not possible to perform a comprehensive search of the volume. Therefore, it was necessary to utilise the selective list of references to markets and fairs in Quo Warranto which is recorded in the Report of the Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls (1889). This was the only occasion on which the Royal Commission report was utilised during the compilation of the Gazetteer.

It was necessary to utilise secondary sources for information regarding early markets and fairs, for boroughs and for mints. Information regarding medieval boroughs was taken from Beresford and Finberg, Boroughs, with the supplement in Urban History Yearbook (1981); evidence for Anglo-Saxon mints was taken from C. Challis, A New History of Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992) and for boroughs and markets in 1086 from H.C. Derby, Domesday England (Cambridge, 1977). I. Soulsby, The Towns of Medieval Wales (1983) and R.A. Griffiths ed., Boroughs of Medieval Wales (1978) were used to provide vital evidence of Welsh boroughs, prescriptive markets and fairs. Information regarding the boroughs in the burghal hidage was taken from D. Hill, Atlas of Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford, 1981). Professor Everitt's list of markets c.1500 to 1640 in the Agrarian History of England and Wales iv, was used for evidence regarding the survival of markets into the sixteenth century; similar evidence for the survival of fairs was taken from the list compiled in 1587 in W. Harrison, The Description of England.

All of the sources above were utilised systematically. Additional sources have also been used, which it was not possible to search comprehensively for all references to markets and fairs. Beginning with the printed primary sources, a project previously carried out at the Centre for Metropolitan History demonstrated that the indexes of the printed Patent Rolls do not provide references to all the markets and fairs recorded. Therefore, although there are references in the Gazetteer to markets and fairs taken from the Patent Rolls it was not possible to use the Patent Rolls systematically. In the same way, the indexes of the Hundred Rolls, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous and Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem are also unsatisfactory and these sources have only been used selectively.

As already noted, some of the primary sources which were essential to the project have very poor indexes, which slowed the collection of the evidence. This problem also made it necessary to change the end date of the Gazetteer from 1540 to 1516. Between 1517 and 1536, grants of markets and fairs were made by letter patent and are recorded in the Calendar of Letters and Papers, Henry VIII. As there is no adequate index to these volumes, it was not possible to incorporate them into the project.

The main secondary source utilised in compilation of the Gazetteer was the Victoria County History. This source was used selectively: counties which were not utilised include those for which only the general volumes have been published, those with an inadequate index and those which were completed early in the twentieth century and contain a limited amount of information useful to this project. Further, VCH was not consulted for Devon, Essex and Huntingdon, as comprehensive and recent studies have been undertaken of the markets and fairs in these counties. Many of the volumes utilised, particularly those produced most recently, have provided valuable information regarding the survival of individual markets and fairs. Other information was selected from M. Beresford, New Towns of the Middle Ages (1967).

The final lists of markets and fairs were compared with those produced by existing county studies. These vary widely in content and chronological range. Although some studies are based on primary sources, the information for others was taken from secondary sources such as the Report of the Royal Commission on Markets and Fairs (1889) or from finding aids such as the card index in the Public Record Office, itself compiled in part from the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission and the PRO card index are not comprehensive and both of these resources have drawbacks.

Value of the Gazetteer
Most county studies simply list the first evidence of a market or fair at each place and do not include any subsequent re-grants of the original charter, or the reductions or extensions of the rights it bestowed. Many county lists do not include prescriptive markets or fairs and the majority do not include markets and fairs on the royal demesne. In few county studies is an attempt made to determine which markets and fairs were actually set up or how long these survived.

The Gazetteer is, therefore, unique in the range of sources which were comprehensively utilised. For example, only around half of the published lists have utilised the Close Rolls, few county lists have made use of the Regesta, Pipe Rolls, or Curia Regis Rolls, whilst none have utilised the Gascon Rolls. The Gazetteer contains more information than even the most comprehensive county studies for England; there is no comparable study for Wales.

A second unique feature of the Gazetteer is the range and detail of information that was collected. Firstly, whilst many individual county studies are lists of markets and fairs (sometimes only markets) set up by royal charter, this project includes all markets and fairs established by royal grant, whether by charter, letter close or letter patent. It also details all re- grants, extensions and reductions of the original grant. (In the Gazetteer, all grants are treated as new markets or fairs unless i) there is specific mention of a regrant, confirmation, move or change of date; ii) the grant reiterates the terms of an existing charter, i.e. the same market or fair is granted by the same grantor to the same grantee; or iii) the grant reiterates the terms of an existing charter, i.e. the same market or fair is granted to a descendant or assign of the original grantee.) Secondly, whereas many county lists concentrate on the period c.1200 to 1350, in which most market charters were granted, the scope of Gazetteer enables it to include both the important Anglo-Norman grants and those dating from after 1350. References to functioning markets and fairs were collected, to help determine which were successfully established and how long they functioned: current debate often focuses on this issue. Every prescriptive market and fair found within the period was noted.

1 Idealist v. 3.0 (Blackwell Science Ltd, now distributed by Bekon, 2 North Place, St Petersgate, Stockport, Cheshire SK1 1HH; Tel: +44 (0)161 476 1300; Fax: +44 (0)161 476 1311; email: free-text database software.Back to text

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