The market 1997

The History of Bury St Edmunds Markets

Not only is the provision market in Bury St Edmunds one of the most successful traditional street markets in the country today, it also has one of the longest and most colourful histories. It dates back to before the days of William the Conqueror, but surviving written records provide the history shown below. At various times the Market has been split into several sections, including provisions, a corn market, a livestock market and a fish market. In 1997 there remains a separate livestock market which takes place on Wednesdays between Parkway and St Andrews Street (South) and a wholesale corn market which is also held on Wednesdays in the Corn Exchange. The provision market occurs on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Cornhill and the Buttermarket area of the town. This has grown to where it now has over 80 stalls with 1600 feet of stall frontages on a Saturday and only slightly less on Wednesdays.

Chronology of the Provision Market

c.630Sigeberht, King of the East Angles founded a monastery at Bedericsworth. This would have been the start of the town as a villa regia or royal town, possibly with such rights as holding a market, but more importantly, charging market tolls. The town was bounded by the River Linnet to the South, the River Lark to the east and the marshes of Tay Fen to the north. The rivers may well have been used to transport some goods to market. The first market place was believed to be located around the area of today's St Mary's Square, being the junction of a North-South Road (Northgate Street and Southgate Street) with modern Westgate Street. The North-South road was in effect the High Street and probably ran in a straight line through the modern Abbey Gardens before the growth of the Abbey caused its diversion around the abbey walls.
945A large area of land was granted to the monastery by King Edmund covering most of modern Bury St Edmunds. Control of business activities and markets in the area would be included in this grant. This area was called the Banleuca.
1044Edward the Confessor granted full powers to the Abbot over the much wider area of West Suffolk, called the Liberty of St Edmund.
1065The Frenchman and Royal Physician, Baldwin, was appointed Abbot and he was in post for 32 years until 1097. He apparently initiated not only the building of the great Abbey Church, but also encouraged the town to double in size to support the rebuilding effort. He has been credited with the town plan which persists today with its large open square of Angel Hill and the initially enormous market place of today's Cornhill and Buttermarket.
1066The Norman Invasion began, but Abbot Baldwin appeared to find favour with his countryman, William the Conqueror, and all the Abbey's rights and privileges remained in place.
1086The Domesday Book recorded that there were Markets at Clare and Haverhill, as well as Kelsale, Thorney and Blythburgh. Bury must have had a market at this time, because of its size, but there is no mention of it in Domesday.
1121An Italian Abbot from near Rome named Anselm became Abbot and took up Baldwin's plans and enlarged and extended them. It is possible that the town layout with its two large plaza-like open areas was his doing, rather than Baldwin's.
1123-7Henry I issued a writ to Abbot Anselm confirming the abbey's right to hold the market and have the tolls from it. This was confirmed by each succeeding monarch until 1539.
1191The monks complained to Abbot Samson that the burgesses of the town had made sizeable encroachments in the market place, in shops, booths and stalls. The monks were angry that the rents were paid to Town Reeves and not the Convent. An offer of 100 shillings to end the dispute was refused by the convent. This story was related later by Jocelin of Brackland who concluded that despite many efforts, no compensation was ever received by the monks.
c.1195Jocelin of Brackland begins his Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds and covers the period up to 1202. He tells how the merchants of London wished to be free from payment of tolls in St Edmund's market. They claimed this right under a Charter of Henry II but Abbot Samson insisted that the King's Charter did not apply in St Edmund's town because of a prior grant to the saint by Edward the Confessor. The London Merchants stay away for 2 years in protest.
1201King John issued a charter forbidding any other market or fair to be held within the area of the Liberty of St Edmund (the pre 1974 boundaries of the County of West Suffolk). From 1201-1300 was a peak period for new markets and 47 new ones arose in Suffolk, presumably mostly outside the Liberty.
However, this Charter was won only with difficulty and at a cost of 40 marks. The king had given a charter to the monks of Ely whereby they could hold a market at Lakenheath, on condition that it did not harm neighbouring markets. This conflicted with the abbot's existing rights within the Liberty of St Edmund, granted in 1044 by King Edward the Confessor and confirmed by Henry I. Thus "on the promise of a mere 40 marks", the king issued the new charter and ordered the market at Lakenheath to close. The Chronicle of Jocelin of Brackland explains how the king wrote to his Justiciar to discontinue the Lakenheath market. The Justiciar wrote this to the Sheriff of Suffolk, who, knowing that he could not enter the Liberty of St Edmund, or exercise any power there, ordered the abbot by writ to implement the king's command. The bailiff of the hundred went to carry this out but was met by insults and injuries. The abbot then sent six hundred well armed men who destroyed stalls and seized livestock. This illustrates the jealousy with which market rights were protected because of the importance of the income they could generate.
Also in 1201 the Abbot of Flay visited our abbey from France. He was promoting a new crusade and was travelling around England also preaching against Sunday trading. Abbot Sampson agreed with him that all the market trading which took place on Sundays would be transferred to Tuesdays.
1235The Abbot of Bury was granted the right to hold an annual Trinity Fair at Long Melford, which was in the area of the Liberty.
1272Henry III grants a charter for an annual Fair with tolls to be paid to the Abbot. This was St Matthews Fair held in late September to early October, and today known as the Bury Fair. It lasted annually until 1866. It may well have spent all this period located on the Angel Hill.
1295Description of market layout in street rental.
1384A Tuesday market begins at Ixworth.
1539Dissolution of the Abbey. Control over the market passed to the Crown.
1563Tolls of markets and fairs leased by the crown for 21 years to Thomas Andrews.
1583The Guildhall Feoffees raised money to build "a very fayer large house for cornesellers." The exact site is not known. It is believed to have burned down in 1608.
1589At this date it appears that the fairs and markets in Bury have been leased to Sir William Drury of Hawstead Place. This is evidenced by the commission for the inquisition after his death to enquire into the annual value of his estates. The enquiry found that "Roger Reve of Bury, gent, holds, by lease, (from Drury - ed) the profits of the fayres and markets in Bury, at £36 a year's rent, 40s deductions."
1595The markets and fairs, tolls and other rights were leased by the crown to Sir Nicholas Bacon.
1601Sir Nicholas Bacon assigned this lease to Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead.
1604A fresh lease for 40 years was made to Sir Robert Drury by the Crown.
1606James I's first charter of Incorporation. The Alderman was granted the office of clerk of the market. The Borough Council was granted the power to make byelaws.
1607The Borough made its first byelaws. These included byelaws "For the better ordering of the market" and "For usage of the Faires and Markets by strangers".

The Great Fire
1608The Great Fire. There was a serious fire in 1608, and the old market hall was burnt down. The fire started on 11th April in Eastgate Street and burned for 3 days spreading up Northgate Street, into Looms Lane, into the Market Place, possibly ending at Woolhall Street on one side and the Suffolk Hotel on the other. The Market Toll House also burned down. The market cross was built soon afterwards with an open ground floor and used as a corn exchange.
Following the fire, James I's second grant of privileges to the Borough included the reversion of the 1604 lease to Sir Robert Drury for the tithes, fairs, markets and other rights. This is often referred to as the Market Charter.
1609The Town Clerk, John Mallowes, and his brother Edward were assigned the unexpired part of Sir Robert Drury's interest in the property leased to him. They also agreed to move the fish market to some other convenient place.
1610The Alderman and other members of the corporation acquired the assignment of Sir Robert Drury's lease as trustees for the Corporation. The price they paid was £2,000.
1614James I's third grant of privileges. The market was not mentioned.
1630The Corporation conveyed all their property, including the markets, fairs and tolls, to 40 trustees.
1661-2The Crown removed 19 members of the corporation after the restoration, but they refused to relinquish their interest in the corporate property. This led to a lengthy case in chancery.
1668The Corporation's right to the markets and tolls was confirmed by Charles II.
1669The 19 disaffected corporation members reconveyed the property to the alderman and burgesses.
The market in 1700
Markets and fairs were generally farmed - the lessee provided stalls, hurdles etc and collected tolls and dues, paying a fixed annual rent to the corporation. The advantage of this system for the Corporation would be that it avoided the chore of collecting large numbers of daily payments, it got a fixed and guaranteed income, and it could avoid the frequent and irksome disputes which always surrounded the operation of a market. The disadvantages would be that it would get no extra income from increased tolls or more traders, and that it relinquished control over part of its town centre on market days.
1747Warren's Town Plan dated 1747 has the following market places marked upon it:

Horse market - located in today's St Mary's Square

Butter and Fish market - located in today's Buttermarket from Marks and Spencer's down to Abbeygate Street

Beast Market - located in today's market area between Woolworth's and Marks and Spencer's.

Great Market - located in today's Cornhill and Traverse area.

The Butchers Shambles - where beasts were slaughtered and prepared for sale as meat is shown on the site of today's Corn Exchange building.

1769The Corporation built a market house for the fish and herb market.
1774Robert Adam rebuilt The Market Cross. The ground floor was still open and used for the corn exchange. The upper floor was used as a theatre.
1827By 1827 the Beast Market was taking up a considerable space in the town and becoming thought a nuisance. However, they would soon find that there was a great public resistance to moving it.

At an assembly of the common council of the Borough held on 23rd January 1827, a report was received from the “Committee To the Fairs and Markets” (Suffolk Record Office reference D4/1/5).

Amongst their recommendations was the following:-
“Respecting the Markets – On measuring the present Beast Market they are of opinion that it is not sufficient for the accommodation of the increased number of stock weekly driven there as much of the present space must be appropriated to roads. They therefore recommend to the consideration of the Corporation to obviate the present inconvenience some more commodious place has been considered and submit that the premises in St Andrews Street the property of Major Wilson being not distant from the present Beasts Market as a convenient spot. With this view your committee have enquired (thro’ the medium of a friend) the price of the said premises and are informed that nine hundred guineas is the sum named. They have also directed their attention to find out a better accommodation on the Corn market and are of the opinion that the present Market Cross might be converted”.

The corporation acting on the committee’s recommendation “resolved that Major Wilson’s Estate should be purchased for the corporation at a sum not exceeding nine hundred guineas and that the market for Cattle should be removed there and that the consideration of the further part of the report be postponed to a future day and Mr Deck is authorized to treat for the Estate on behalf of the Corporation”.

At the following meeting held on 9th February 1827, a “requisition” was presented to the corporation that “We the undersigned Tradesmen and Innkeepers respecting owners, tenants and occupiers of messuages and premises situate in and near the Market places of the said Borough having been informed that it is intended to remove the Cattle and Butter Markets in the Borough from the places where the same are now held respectfully beg leave to represent that such removal would be greatly to our prejudice in our several callings and also materially depreciate in value our houses and premises so situated. And we therefore humbly request that any removal of the markets of this Borough (should such be contemplated) may not be carried into effect”. This petition is dated 8th February 1827.

At the same meeting the committee of Fairs and Markets “reported that they had bought Major Wilson’s House with the Fixtures at the sum £920”.

At the next assembly held on 1st June 1827, it was decided that, “further consideration of the question relative to the removal of the Cattle Market would be adjourned till this day month”. The petition and public objections had now started to cause a delay. Some Council members were feeling under attack. At the same meeting “The committee appointed to alter the Cattle Market declined to act any further”.

When the Council assembly next met on 29th June, a motion was proposed in favour of their previous decision that, “so far as relates to the removal of the Cattle Market be confirmed, the Corporation having purchased the Estate of Colonel Wilson therein referred to, and that a committee be appointed to take the necessary measures to form the New Cattle Market and to carry into full effect the above resolutions”.

A committee of five members of the council, Robert Maukin, James Mathew, John Symonds, William Frewer and John Jackson were appointed for this purpose and ordered to report “from time to time their proceedings”.

Matters now dragged on into 1828.

1828 There are no further reports on the Cattle market considered by the Borough Council until the 5th May 1828. At that meeting a vote of thanks was proposed “to Charles Blomfield esquire as Alderman for his firm and manly conduct in supporting the rights and orders of the Corporation on the thirtieth of April Last relative to the removal of the Cattle Market. That he be requested to preserve in his exertions to further the resolutions of the Corporation and to take such measures as he may be legally advised to adopt in preventing a further resistance to such order. That all expenses incurred be defrayed from the funds of the corporation”.

The Cattle market was finally removed from the town centre near the Corn Exchange to St Andrews Street South, in April, 1828. This occasioned a riot on 30th April, when a brick was thrown at the Town Clerk.

1835Parliament passes The Municipal Corporations Act. The old self-perpetuating oligarchy was replaced by an elected council. The new council found that the old corporation had, as usual, farmed the markets and fairs, and they were bound by the terms of the existing lease, which did not expire until 1849.
1836The original corn exchange, now the site of the Laura Ashley store, was built.
1836-58The council gradually acquired more land on St Andrews Street South for the cattle market and fairs.
1849The lease on the market expired. The corporation agreed to take the management into their own hands and fixed the level of the tolls.
1850Counsel's opinion sought over shopkeepers in the market place who displayed goods in front of their shops but did not pay tolls. The Counsel's advice was that they were entitled to "stallage" unless the shops had had the right to display their goods for more than 20 years.
1853Two auctioneers, Messrs Newton and Tattersall agreed with the council that they could erect stabling, a carriage warehouse, a selling shed and pens for pigs and sheep in the cattle market. A Mr Salter of Attleborough was allowed a gateway from his property into the cattle market "for the advantage of his sales".
1861New corn exchange built. The old corn exchange was used as a covered provision market.
1864 During 1864 the octogonal toll collectors hut was built on the Cattle Market site off St Andrews Street South. This toll collector's booth would become an object of interest when the whole area was considered for conversion into a shopping precinct in the 21st century.
The market 1865
1865A photograph of Market Day on the Cornhill shows a disorganised view of a few carts and open stalls. The market does not look very busy or inviting.

The market 1900
c.1900A photograph of a Market Day on the Buttermarket shows it busy but not over crowded and only a few stalls where today there are three full rows.
1958The Cattle Market was moved westwards, away from the St Andrews Street frontage to provide car parking for the town centre. New covered pig pens were provided together with a new lorrywash. This was still the current site in 1998, and remained so until the eventual demise of the Cattle market in December of that year.
1961Buses leaving the Bus Station were finally banned from driving through the Buttermarket on market days, to avoid further damage to the portico of the Suffolk Hotel.
1968New market bye-laws introduced.
1974St Edmundsbury Borough Council was formed from the old Bury St Edmunds Borough Council, Haverhill Urban District Council, Thingoe Rural District Council and Clare Rural District Council. The new Council took over responsibility for the Bury markets, and the provision market held in Haverhill on a Friday and Saturday. There was a market held in Clare, but this was run by the Parish Council, and continues to be under their control in 1997.
1986The Borough Council first introduced market regulations. Modern conditions of open government and administrative justice meant that the Market Traders Committee were consulted on the proposals and the regulations adopted with their support. The regulations governed stall location and market discipline and very importantly by this time, controlled the sale of the goodwill of sites. Rules were adopted to control the future composition and locations of traders.
1986The growth of rival markets, usually disguised as car boot sales, was met by adopting S.37 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 requiring prior notice of such events.
1987Sainsbury's supermarket moved from the Cornhill to Moreton Hall on the edge of town. The land had been acquired in 1984 causing the future of the town centre to come into question.
1988There was a major review of market regulations in full consultation with the Traders Committee, resulting in 2 or 4 days suspensions being introduced for breaches of market regulations. Traders would pay for 48 weeks of the year, whether attending or not. The licence holder must attend personally for 1 week in 4, and no companies or partnerships could trade.
1989Serious consideration was given to relocating the Livestock Market to allow for retail redevelopment, and a Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party was set up.
1990Consultant Chartered Surveyors, Drivers Jonas reported on the commercial future of the Provision Market. They concluded that the market could be more profitable to the Council if a management agreement was made with a commercial market operator (i.e., farmed out). The Council decided to retain its own control but adopted a business plan to improve its income and resolved to review its charging policy.
1991A 3 zone charging policy was adopted, with a higher price per foot of frontage charged in the areas with the best flow of pedestrians. This was the final major change in the last half decade of market reforms which ensured a dynamic future for our street market when these are declining elsewhere in the country in the economic recession.
1992By this date electric power supplies were made available to all stalls which needed it to comply with legislation. The market was extended into the Traverse under its Business Plan.
1993Simpson's cattle market site was sold to the Council, who leased it to Lacy Scott, the last remaining livestock auctioneer in Bury.
1994Supported by Market Traders, the Council lobbied Government not to take away their market rights as proposed in the Deregulation Bill. It also decided not to proceed with the redevelopment of the Cattle Market site.
1996The markets joined in the Great British Market Week, a national promotion to boost the appeal of markets to shoppers.
1997 During 1997 the Bury Corn Market, still held in the Corn Exchange every Wednesday, dwindled to the extent that no merchants bothered to turn up any more. It died out because most of such trades were now carried out under contract between buyers and sellers.

Meanwhile the beef trade had been hit by the disease BSE, followed by the subsequent ban on the sale of beef on the bone. The livestock market at Campsea Ashe, by Wickham Market, had also recently closed because of falling trade and tighter regulation of slurry disposal at markets.

1998 In January Lacy Scott started a Monday livestock market to replace the market they were forced to close at Wickham Market, in East Suffolk.

In June 1998, the Banbury Cattle Market closed after 800 years.

In August, following a drop in cattle sales caused by the BSE crisis, and a disastrous fall in pig prices, Lacy Scott gave up the lease on Simpson's market area in Bury and the Council demolished it to provide 80 car park spaces in time for Christmas.

A new Cattle Market Redevelopment Working Party was set up in April to discuss the whole future of this site again.

However, the decision was taken out of the Council's hands. In December, Lacy Scott and Knight announced the complete closure of the livestock market in Bury St Edmunds, and they gave up their lease of the Council's pig pens and lorry wash. Not only were economic factors in play, but throughout the year animal rights protestors had harried the operators and the council about the market. The so-called "Deadstock" market still remained open, but 370 car parking spaces now became available to the general public every Wednesday.

Thus, in the end, it was economic factors which finished off the Cattle market in Bury St Edmunds at the end of 1998.

The Provisions Market continued to flourish on the Cornhill and Buttermarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

1999 The year 1999 opened with some attempts to rescue the livestock market operations, but what trade remained was carried out on a local farm. In May, the Chelmsford Livestock Market ceased animal sales. The European Community beef ban was lifted in August, having been in force since March 1996. In its wake, only Colchester and Norwich were left with livestock markets operating to serve the whole of East Anglia.
2000 The old pig sheds on the ex-Livestock market site in Bury were demolished and replaced by 103 new car parking spaces. As if to seal the fate of the livestock market, the old Market Tavern, at the top of Risbygate Street, was turned into a wine bar called Number Three. The Market Tavern is traceable back to a document of 1674, and seems to have been called the Wagon until the 1920's.
2003 On 10th December, 2003, Fabian Eagle held his last poultry sale at Bury Market. It was known to the Council as the Deadstock Market, to distinguish it from the Livestock Market which had dealt with pigs, sheep, and cattle. The term "deadstock", included live poultry, ducks, rabbits and guinea pigs, as well as dead pheasants and other game. Wood was sold, and general bric a brac was up for auction. There was also an established vegetable stall, which sold flowers and plants in season as well. For many years this sale had traded as Vincents, even when owned by the one-time Mayor of Bury St Edmunds, Mr Ted Spooner.

The only remnant of the old market on the site to survive was Mrs Pettitt's Tea Hut, which would finally close in August 2006.

Photographs of the last day , taken by David Albon, a collector of fancy fowl, can be seen by clicking here:
"The Last Deadstock Market"

2004 In October, 2004, a revised design for the Cattle Market redevelopment was made public. New architecture and a wider link through to the Cornhill were its main features. This plan required the acquisition of Stead and Simpsons and Top Shop, to double the width of Market Thoroughfare. It was followed by a Parish poll of Bury Town council voters to gauge public opinion. This resulted in a majority of those voting being opposed to development. A poll published by the Borough Council showed a majority in favour of it.
2006 On 2nd August, 2006, the final chapter of Bury's Livestock market was written when the long established Tea Hut was closed down. The lease was up and the council had given notice of closure in order that the site could be finally cleared prior to redevelopment as a shopping centre. Before its life as a Refreshment Hut, this bulding was reputedly the Barber's Shop at Blenheim Camp, having been sold off when the camp was downsized.
2007 Demolition work began on the Cattle Market redevelopment site in January, 2007. Building work carried on throughout the year, but even the name chosen for the new development, "The Arc", proved controversial.
2009 Bury St Edmunds received a boost on 5th March, 2009, when the new Cattle Market shopping centre opened. It was named the Arc, and had cost £100 million to build by Taylor Woodrow, on behalf of the developers, Centros Miller. It had taken two-and-a half years to build and included underground car park spaces. The major anchor store was Debenhams, housed in a futuristic domed building on two levels. Debenhams was located on a new central area, called Charter Square. Two new streets led into Charter Square, called Auction Street and Gosnold Street. The Arc could be entered from all directions, including from Kings Road, where a new entrance, called Hanchet Square, had been constructed.

Economic conditions had led to the closure of even well known shops like Woolworths, and even the stallholders on the Provisions Market were finding it hard to make a living.

2012 The old toll booth or round house that stood on the cattle market in Bury St Edmunds was restored and re-erected at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Stowmarket and was launched at a special event on 18th June 2012 at MEAL's Stowmarket site. This had been a promise made when the Arc shopping development required its removal in 2006.

Based on a document produced for the Council in the 1970's by Margaret Statham.
Enlarged and adapted for the St Edmundsbury website by David Addy, October 1997. Updated 26th November, 2012

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