Markets and Fairs

Markets and Fairs at Witham

An earlier version of this summary is now in the Essex Record Office as T/P 570 (accession T1598)

© Janet Gyford 2001

These markets and fairs belonged to the combined manors of Chipping/Witham and Newland, and all the grants etc. are to the lords of those manors

See a separate document about the cattle market


Note:
The schedule in Essex Markets and Fairs, by W.Walker, published by Essex Record Office in 1981 (p.35), omits the records of a pre-1212 market at Witham.

Morant and other county historians referred to a market day on Wednesday, but this was a misreading of the Latin and it was actually Tuesday (see entry under 1218/9 below).

It is possible that the grant of 25 June 1703 may still authorise the lord of the manors to have a Tuesday market in Newland Street. The lord will be the heir of the Charles Du Cane who held the manors in 1937, or whoever he may have sold the rights to. The fairs which were also granted then were abolished in 1891.

The lord of the manor’s copy of the grant document of 1703 is in the Essex Record Office (part of D/DDc T81).


Chronological list


c.1153-4 (Stephen), also confirming 1100-1135

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]; it had been held in time of King Henry [1100-1135]. Grant to the Knights Templars. No day given.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero, E.VI fo.290

Reproduced in: Lees, p.152; Gervers, pp.56-57

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

The market in Henry’s time would have been one of the earliest in Essex after the Norman conquest, according to R.H.Britnell.


c.1155 (Henry II)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero. E.VI fo.304 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, pp.152-3

N.B. not mentioned in Walker


1189 (Richard I)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C. Misc.Bundle 12/5 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, p.141

N.B. not mentioned in Walker


1199-1200 (1 John)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] (m.34 is also manor & half hundred). As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/1, mm.34, 33

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), pp.2, 2-3; Gervers, p.31

N.B. not mentioned in Walker


1212 (14 John)

Grant of a charter for a Thursday market, & a 3-day fair at the Beheading of John Baptist [29 Aug.], at the new town of Wulvesford in Witham [i.e. Newland]. To the Knights Templars.

Original: P.R.O. C 53/10, m.4

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), p.188; Gervers, p.6


1218/9 (3 Hen.III)

Order to the sheriff of Essex that the market that was accustomed to be held every Sunday at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] shall be held every Tuesday at the same.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 54/21, m.12

Reproduced in Rot.Litt.Claus. (Rec.Com.), 386

N.B. This is widely quoted in error (though not dated) as being a change from Sunday to Wednesday (e.g. in Morant, p.105 (quoting Symonds), and in various directories). This must come from a misreading of the ‘mart.’ (Tuesday) in the original to mean ‘merc.’ (Wednesday). I checked this, and the ‘t’ does look like a ‘c’ but the ‘a’ is fairly unmistakable and the Record Commissioners’ calendar agrees. Also see below in 1379 when the Tuesday market at Witham [Chipping Hill] was moved to Newland.


1227 (11 Henry III)

Confirmation of a market at Wulversford [i.e. Newland] & fair (m.29 is also a manor & half-hundred). As 1212. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/18, mm.32, 29

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1226-57, 5, 8


1309

Survey of Witham manor (possibly not including Newland?). Said the market was held on Tuesdays. Fairs were at the Feasts of St.Laurence & the beheading of St.John Baptist. Inquest into manor & Knights Templars possessions.

Reproduced in: Gervers, pp.52-53


1312

The Knights Templars were disbanded by the King, who granted their property to the Knights Hospitallers.



1379 (3 Richard II)

Grant of a charter for a market. On Tuesday at Newland, part of manor of Witham, ‘in lieu of a market on Tuesday in the manor of Witham’ [i.e. Chipping Hill]. To the Knights Hospitallers.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/157, m.25

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1341-1417, 258


1540

Knights Hospitallers dissolved by Henry VIII. Their rights & properties were at first leased by, and by the 17th century held by, the tenants of Cressing Temple, the Smith/Nevill family.


1582

Illegitimate child of a Coggeshall woman was said to have been conceived at Witham fair.

E.R.O. Q/SR 80/37, 80/53.


17th century

For the 17th-century market in Newland Street, see Witham 1500-1700 Making a Living by Janet Gyford, pages 138-142. There was a market house, also known as the market cross, as well as an outdoor market.


1616 (James I)

Grant for 37 years of two annual fairs, on the Monday before Pentecost (i.e. before Whit Sunday), and on Allhallows day (All Saints, November lst). The Annual fair had been held on the Sunday after the feast of St.Laurence (10 August or 3 February) on the hill called Chipping Hill since time out of mind. This profanes the sabbath; hence the change. To William Smith.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 66/2063, no.3


1659

The Smiths sold the manors & the rights etc. to the Blackman family.

Recited in the original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (date confirmed by court rolls in E.R.O. D/DBw M28).


1668

The Blackmans sold part of the manors, including the manorial rights, to the Bennett family.

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81


1669, 14 August

John Bennett, lord of the manor, wanted to revive the fairs, which he wrote ‘have beene discontinued about 30 yeares, yett some Inhabitants doe remember what dayes they were kept the one being on Holyrood day’ [14 September]. He asked a Mr.Riley to find the original grant for the fairs; the letter is annotated with a note about the grant of 1212.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBw M85, 14 Aug.1669

1702/3, 8 Feb.

Petition to the Crown from John Bennett, lord of manor, et al., saying that there had been a market on Tuesday for corn & other things, & 2 annual fairs, and that it would be an advantage to have a weekly beast market.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 376


1703, 3 April (2 Anne)

Application from John Bennett for a weekly market on Tuesday, and two annual three-day fairs on Monday before Feast of Pentecost (Whit Sunday), & Sept.14th (if any of days is a Sunday, then on Monday instead), for cattle, sheep & goods.

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Roval Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134 (originals in P.R.O. [TNA] ‘Writs and Inquisitions ad quod Damnum’ according to this report).


1703, 30 May (2 Anne)

Report of the inquest of 9 April; it had been decided that it was acceptable to grant markets and fairs as requested above.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 452

1703, 25 June (Anne)

Grant of market on Tuesdays (till 4 pm.) & 2 annual fairs ‘in manor of Newland’ for buying and selling all goods & chattels [in Latin – probably means cattle too]. Two fairs as in the application above. To John Bennett (lord of manor). An Inquisition had been held at the Blue Boar in Maldon.

[The market grant  is probably still valid today; the fairs were abolished in 1891].

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (includes the original grant); P.R.O.  [TNA] C 66/3440, no.16

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134


1724

Item for sale on 9 December 2004 by Mullock and Madeley, The Old Shippon, Wall under Heywood, near Church Stretton, Shropshire, SY6 7DS.

http://www.mullockmadeley.co.uk/history/catelogue.php?pageNum_Recordset2=21&totalRows_Recordset2=559&id=64

Lot 460. “Rights to hold Markets in Witham, Essex Sussex/Essex historically important vellum indenture on a single large leaf dated January 29th 1724, being the sale of the Manor and Lordship of Witham Chipping and Newland in Witham, by John Bennett, master of the High Court of Chancery, detailing the estates of the Manor in both Essex and Sussex, and also the rights to hold Markets in Witham with all profits and tolls as well as the granting of ancient commons and fishing rights , together with Sedgwick Park in Sussex. One small hole in folds, one original hole in vellum at top not affecting text, otherwise in good legible condition throughout, signed and sealed by all parties to base Scarce. Documents of this nature rarely appear on the market, and the present document provides a wealth of information about the nature of the manor and its various rights and privileges” Estimate £50-70


 1773-8: Morant’s History of Essex

Market on Tuesdays. Fairs held on Monday before Whitsun and on September 14.


Probably 1788

The fair on June 4th and 5th was probably instituted at Chipping Hill, to celebrate the recovery of George III from madness; June 4th was the King’s birthday.

E.R.O. D/DBs E11 (dated c.1860s but refers to the origin of this fair)


1823-4 and 1839: Pigot’s directories

Market on Tuesday. Fairs on the Monday before Whitsun and on 14 September. In view of the previous paragraph, this information may have been out of date and perhaps came from a source such as Morant’s history.


1848 & 1863: White’s directories

‘A small market every Tuesday, for corn, cattle &c., and pleasure fairs on the Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and on June 4th and 5th. The latter is held at Chipping Hill’. [note that the entry in the 1863 directory may have been copied from the 1848 one without being updated].


Probably about 1860

A petition survives from 24 residents of Chipping Hill, headed by the vicar, John Bramston. This was addressed to the lord of the manor, Charles Du Cane, and read:

We … request you … to withhold your consent to having booths and stalls erected on the highway at Chipping Hill on the highway leading up to the Church, and on the little green in front of the Church, on any day in the week preceding or following the 4th of June. It is well known that Chipping Hill Fair is not a Statute fair but was commenced within the memory of persons now living to celebrate the recovery of King George the 3rd and was therefore first held on the 4th of June, his birthday. This fair is wholly unnecessary for any purpose whatever as the regular Fair for the Parish is held in Witham on the Friday in Whitsun week, within a fortnight of the 4th of June. Chipping Hill Fair has long been a nuisance to the respectable inhabitants, as interrupting their regular business, obstructing the highway and bringing together at night the worst characters of the neighbourhood, both male and female. Moreover the little green, where many of the stalls are pitched, is in every way ill adapted to the purpose in as much as the entrance to the Church yard is thereby completely blocked up.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBs Ell


1855, 1859, 1867: P.O./Kelly’s directories

A market is held on Tuesday evenings at the Angel inn, High Street [this was where nos.39/41 Newland Street now stand, on the S.W. corner of Newland Street and Maldon Road]. Pleasure fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.

Also in 1855 in the listing: Smith Robert, Angel commercial inn & market house, & brewer


1870: Kelly’s directory

The market is now discontinued. Pleasure fairs are held on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.


1870s

A photo survives of the fair in Newland Street at about this time (see photo M231) (also in the Maurice Smith collection in Witham library).

A description of the fairs, probably describing the 1870s but written 60 years later, has also been preserved. It reads:

“Twice a year, the travelling fairs came to Witham ~ one at Whitsuntide to Newland Street, and in the summer time to the Hill leading to the Parish Church. These were really delightful occasions – there were Roundabouts and Horses and Carriages … and very wonderful to the children of those days – Swing boats, which one pretended to enjoy but which often made one feel very sick – stalls with their cakes (which I have never tasted since) – and Fair Gingerbread, made in the shape of cats with currants for eyes – peel for nose and mouth – China stalls, with figures of black and white cats and dogs – twin little red Cinderella slippers and later on guns, shooting stalls, and china sheep made with rough sides to represent wool. The greatest attraction was the Merry go round, worked by a horse, which walked sedately to the accompaniment of crude music.

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23

It was also recorded that the Whitsun fair was on the slope in the road between the Post Office [then at 82 Newland Street], and Guithavon Street; this slope had since been levelled to be part of the road.]

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23


 

1874, 1882, 1886, 1890: Kelly’s directories

There are fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week and on June 4 at Chipping Hill.


1890: Kelly’s directory

There were fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun, & June 4, at Chipping Hill.

Article in Braintree and Witham Times, 21 February 1935, page 6, about the retirement of William W Oxbrow from Witham Post Office. He started work at the Post Office in about 1889. He recalled ‘the days when Witham’s annual fair was held in the High Street, the attractions invariably included a menagerie. The menagerie usually stood outside the Post Office building, and whilst on night duty as a telegraphist, it was not unusual for him to have a free, but nevertheless unwelcome, entertainment – the roar of the lions, and a hundred and one other unfamiliar sounds which came from the animal inmates of the show”.


Essex County Chronicle, 26 December 1890

“WITHAM AND CHIPPING HILL FAIRS. PRESENTMENT BY THE LOCAL BOARD. The Witham Local Board sent a letter requesting the bench to ask the Home Secretary to take the necessary steps for the abolition of the fairs at Witham and Chipping Hill. The magistrates acceded to the request, the Chairman remarking upon the dangerous nature of the fairs and the accidents caused by the frightening of the horses at the noise”.


1891

The Witham fairs were abolished by order of the Home Secretary, under the provisions of the Fairs Act, 1871, as a result of a request by the justices of the Witham Division, who in turn had been asked by the Witham Local Board of Health to make the application. The lord of the manor (Charles H.C. Du Cane) gave his consent; it was said that for some years he had taken no tolls. These were the ‘Witham’ fair (in Newland Street) on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and the Chipping Hill fair on 4 & 5 June

The Board reported that: Witham Fair has been accustomed to be held in the High Street, but for the past year or two a portion of it has been held on private property thus leaving the High Street to be occupied principally by Swings and Cocoanut Shies. Chipping Hill Fair is held on and adjacent to the path to the Parish Church and when Divine Service is held on Fair days the Fair is necessarily a cause of complaint.

The town crier, George Wood, had posted copies of the relevant notice at 20 shops, pubs and public establishments in the town. A letter from Charles Cranfield (National School headmaster), in his role as secretary of the Witham Ratepayers’ Association, recorded that the Association ‘heartily supports’ abolition. The Police Superintendent, G.Allen, was consulted, and wrote that:

“During the last five years no cases of disorder or immorality have been discovered or brought to the knowledge of the Police, neither has any person been proceeded against before the Bench … In my opinion, the reasonable enjoyment of any class of people would not in the slightest way be interfered with by their abolition … I believe it is the unanimous feeling of all persons that the Fairs should be discontinued.

The most objectionable results attending these Fairs in the Streets are the obstructions caused by shooting galleries, swinging boats, and cocoa nut shies, all of which are very dangerous, and they are generally attended by gipsies. The inhabitants have frequently complained of the nuisance they cause.

The respectable part of the Fairs is always held in private grounds: it is only the low element who stand in the streets.”

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] HO 45/9835/B10169 (Victoria)


1895, 1899, 1902: Kelly’s directories

Fortnightly privately-run sale of fat and store stock in a field adjoining the railway near Chipping Hill [i.e. where the Labour Hall now stands]. Fairs not mentioned.


UDC Road Committee, 19 September 1911, page 43

‘As to Stalls in Streets’, a charge of 1 shilling per day to be made ‘for any stalls erected in the streets’.


Braintree and Witham Times, 5 November 1931, page 5, cols 4 and 5

Old photo of a fair in Witham High Street. The well-known one, quite good quality (see Photo M321). Says it is in about 1870. On the right, Cheek’s printing office, in the building now occupied by Clark. London House to the left. The Old Public Hall with the clock and bell turret. Then after, it was the Conservative Club. The Post Office at this time was on opposite side of road where now is King’s jewellers. “In the forefront of the picture can be seen a shooting gallery. the iron work tube used as a safety measure must have extended across the High Street end of Guithavon Street. To the right of this, but not shewn in the picture – in fact, exactly where the present telephone box stands – stood a greasy pole, which afforded much amusement for the youths of the day. The outside of a boxing booth shews up on the left of the picture. It is interesting to note that the telegraph pole carried but six insulators, also at that period only one message per wire was possible at the same moment.

The successor to the telegraph pole of our picture now carries 92 insulators, while a number of messages can be transmitted simultaneously over one wire. The caravan race of people who attended Witham and similar fairs are now becoming extinct. … At the time our picture was taken there was in business in Witham a Mr Priddy, wine and spirit merchant. On the occasion of the annual fair he used to place barrels half-full of water, with apples floating on top, outside his shop. Schoolboys and youths created much fun in their efforts to extract the apples with their hands tied behind them. The local Council might consider obtaining the original of our picture, having an enlargement made, and hanging the picture in their Council Chamber. It is a link in the history of Witham.

At night the booths were illuminated by naphtha flares. Cakes and gingerbread found ready purchasers. Itinerant pedlars disposed of their wares. As the evening wore on the public houses became full. Ribald jests and rough horseplay were the order of the day. The boxing booth proprietor had no need to put his own staff on the platform. there were plenty of aspirants to put on the gloves with each other. The then inhabitants of Witham were probably not sorry when fairs disappeared from the High Street.”


UDC Estates Committee, 20 July 1932

page 22. Recreation Ground, Maldon Road to be closed from 2 p.m. on 20 August for Carnival. Permission for some lengths of railings to be removed to admit vehicles as before. Also ‘permission be given for the piece of ground immediately adjoining Mr Mondy’s garden to be used for amusements and a Fair, if any’. [the garden behind 63 Newland Street]


UDC Public Health Committee, 25 May 1936

page 401. Medical Officer of Health and Sanitary Inspector inspected ‘the Fair ground adjoining the peculiar Peoples Chapel’ during a recent fair. No evidence of nuisance. [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road]


UDC Public Health Committee, 15 September 1936

page 501. ‘Moveable dwellings and camping grounds’. Clerk report on occasional fairs who ‘encamp’ on ground next to Peculiars’ chapel  [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road] . Residents have complained ‘particularly owing to the noise of their steam organs and because of the untidy state in which they leave the ground’. Ask Essex County Council if any bye laws. ECC says there is one against ‘steam organ or any other musical instrument worked by mechanical means’ annoying residents, on land adjoining or in highway. Clerk asks instructions. Suggest that land too small and in wrong place. Recommend to Estates Committee that they be offered space at Rickstones Recreation Ground.


UDC Estates Committee, 15 October 1936

page 553. Can’t recommend fairs being allowed on Rickstones Recreation ground.


1937: Kelly’s directory

Gives the lord of manor of Witham and Newland as Charles Henry Copley Du Cane esquire (the Du Canes were previously at Braxted Park, but they were not there in the 1937 directory; though there were some Miss Du Canes at Great Totham and Wickham Bishops)

 


References & abbreviations:

R.H.Britnell, ‘Essex Markets Before 1350’ Essex Archaeology and History, pp.15-16.

R.H.Britnell, ‘The Making of Witham’, History Studies, i. [not referred to above, but is relevant]

Cal.Chart. = Calendars of Charter Rolls, H.M.S.O.

Cal.S.P.Dom. = Calendars of State Papers Domestic, H.M.S.O.

E.R.O. = Essex Record Office

M.Gervers (ed.), The Cartulary of the Knights of Jerusalem in England., Secunda Camera: Essex, O.U.P. for British Academy, 1982.

Kelly’s directories

B.A.Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the twelfth century, O.U.P., 1935.

P.Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, ii, 1763-8.

Pigot’s directories

P.R.O. [TNA] = The National Archives [formerly Public Record Office]

Rec.Com. = Record Commissioners publications.

Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1.

Walker, W. Essex Markets and Fairs, E.R.O., 1981
[N.B. The schedule of medieval charters in this booklet (p.35) omits the Witham charters of c.1153-4, 1155, 1189 & 1199-1200, and only begins with those of 1212 and 1227].

White’s directories


 

 

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