Market town

Market town

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Market town or market right is a legal
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 term, originating in the medieval period, for a Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an settlement that has the right to host market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

s, distinguishing it from a village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

 and city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

. A town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

 may be correctly described as a "market town" or as having "market rights", even if it no longer holds a market, provided the legal right to do so still exists.

England


In pre-19th century England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, the majority of the population made their living through agriculture and livestock farming. Most lived where they worked, with relatively few in towns. Therefore, farmers and their wives brought their produce to informal markets held on the grounds of their church after worship. Market towns grew up at centres of local activity and were an important feature of rural life, as some place names remind us: Market Drayton
Market Drayton
Market Drayton is a small market town in north Shropshire, England. It is on the River Tern, between Shrewsbury and Stoke-on-Trent, and was formerly known as "Drayton in Hales" and earlier simply as "Drayton" ....

, Market Harborough
Market Harborough
Market Harborough is a market town within the Harborough district of Leicestershire, England.It has a population of 20,785 and is the administrative headquarters of Harborough District Council. It sits on the Northamptonshire-Leicestershire border...

, Chipping Norton and Chipping Sodbury
Chipping Sodbury
Chipping Sodbury is a market town in the county of South Gloucestershire, south-west England, founded in the 12th century by William Crassus . The villages of Old Sodbury and Little Sodbury are nearby...

 — chipping was derived from a Saxon verb meaning "to buy".

Market towns often grew up close to fortified places such as castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

s, to enjoy their protection. Framlingham
Framlingham
Framlingham is a market town and civil parish in the Suffolk Coastal District of Suffolk, England. Commonly referred to as "Fram" by the locals, it is of Anglo-Saxon origin and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. It has a population of 3,114 at the 2001 census...

 in Suffolk
Suffolk
Suffolk is a non-metropolitan county of historic origin in East Anglia, England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east...

 is a notable example. Markets were located where transport was easiest, such as at a crossroads or close to a river ford
Ford (crossing)
A ford is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading or in a vehicle. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing, which is an artificial bridge that allows crossing a river or stream when water is low.The names of many towns...

. When local railway lines were first built, market towns were given priority to ease the transport of goods. In Calderdale
Calderdale
The Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale is a metropolitan borough of West Yorkshire, England, through which the upper part of the River Calder flows, and from which it takes its name...

, West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a metropolitan county within the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England with a population of 2.2 million. West Yorkshire came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972....

, several market towns close together were designated to take advantage of the new trains. The designation of Halifax
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Halifax is a minster town, within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale in West Yorkshire, England. It has an urban area population of 82,056 in the 2001 Census. It is well-known as a centre of England's woollen manufacture from the 15th century onward, originally dealing through the Halifax Piece...

, Sowerby Bridge
Sowerby Bridge
Sowerby Bridge is a market town that lies within the Upper Calder Valley in the district of Calderdale in the county of West Yorkshire, in northern England.-Geography:Sowerby Bridge is situated on the edge of Halifax, about three miles from its centre...

, Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, in West Yorkshire, England. It forms part of the Upper Calder Valley and lies 8 miles west of Halifax and 14 miles north east of Rochdale, at the confluence of the River Calder and the River Hebden .A 2004 profile of...

 and Todmorden
Todmorden
Todmorden is a market town and civil parish, located 17 miles from Manchester, within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, in West Yorkshire, England. It forms part of the Upper Calder Valley and has a total population of 14,941....

 illustrate such an example.

The English monarchy created a system by which a new market town could not be established within a certain travelling distance of an existing one. This limit was usually a day's worth of travelling to and from the market, and buying or selling goods. If the travel time exceeded this standard, a new market town could be established in that locale. As a result of the limit, market towns often petitioned the Monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 to close down illegal markets in other towns. These distances are still law in England today. Other markets can be held provided that they are licensed by the holder of the Royal Charter, which tends currently to be the local Town Council
Town council
A town council is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities or civil parishes. A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch....

. Failing that, the Crown can grant a license.

As traditional market towns developed, they had a wide main street or central market square. These provided room for people to set up stalls and booths on market days. Often the town erected a market cross
Market cross
A market cross is a structure used to mark a market square in market towns, originally from the distinctive tradition in Early Medieval Insular art of free-standing stone standing or high crosses, often elaborately carved, which goes back to the 7th century. Market crosses can be found in most...

 in the centre of the town, to obtain God's blessing on the trade. The cross was also a reminder "not to defraud by cheapening". Some take this warning to suggest that market traders were dishonest. Instead, it was a warning to townsfolk not to haggle the traders so low as to discourage their returning.

Notable examples of market crosses in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 are at Chichester
Chichester
Chichester is a cathedral city in West Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, South-East England. It has a long history as a settlement; its Roman past and its subsequent importance in Anglo-Saxon times are only its beginnings...

 and Malmesbury. Market towns often featured a market hall, with administrative quarters at the first-floor level, above the covered market. Market towns with smaller status include Minchinhampton
Minchinhampton
Minchinhampton is an ancient market town, located on a hilltop south-south-east of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, in the Cotswolds. The town is twinned with Nkokoto, in Tanzania....

, Nailsworth
Nailsworth
Nailsworth is a town in Gloucestershire, England, lying in one of the Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds. It has a population of around 6,600 people and lies on the A46 road....

 and Painswick
Painswick
Painswick is a small town in Gloucestershire, England. Originally the town grew on the wool trade, but it is now best known for its parish church's yew trees and the local Rococo Garden. The town is mainly constructed of locally quarried Cotswold stone...

 near Stroud
Stroud, Gloucestershire
Stroud is a market town and civil parish in the county of Gloucestershire, England. It is the main town in Stroud District.Situated below the western escarpment of the Cotswold Hills at the meeting point of the Five Valleys, the town is noted for its steep streets and cafe culture...

, Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

.

Colchester
Colchester
Colchester is an historic town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in Essex, England.At the time of the census in 2001, it had a population of 104,390. However, the population is rapidly increasing, and has been named as one of Britain's fastest growing towns. As the...

 claims to be England's oldest
Oldest town in Britain
The Oldest town in Britain is a title claimed by a number of settlements in Great Britain.-Thatcham:Thatcham in Berkshire is often claimed as the oldest town in Britain, since its occupation can be traced back to a mesolithic hunting camp, which was discovered there beside a Post-glacial rebound...

 recorded market town.

A "market town" may or may not have rights concerning self-government that are usually the legal basis for defining a "town". Newport, Shropshire
Newport, Shropshire
Newport is a market town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England. It lies some north of Telford and some west of Stafford sitting on the Shropshire/Staffordshire border...

 is in the borough of Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin
Telford and Wrekin is a unitary district with borough status in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. The district was created in 1974 as The...

, but is separate from Telford
Telford
Telford is a large new town in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England, approximately east of Shrewsbury, and west of Birmingham...

. In England, towns with such rights are usually distinguished with the additional status of Borough
Borough status in the United Kingdom
Borough status in the United Kingdom is granted by royal charter to local government districts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The status is purely honorary, and does not give any additional powers to the council or inhabitants of the district...

. It is generally accepted that, in these such cases, when a Town was granted a Market, it gained the additional autonomy conferred to separate towns.

The National Market Traders Federation
National Market Traders Federation
The National Market Traders' Federation is an organisation based in the borough of Barnsley, South Yorkshire.-History:It was founded in 1899 by some South Yorkshire market traders to represent their interests on a broader level. There are around 1,400 markets in the UK.-Function:It maintains a...

 (NMTF), situated in Barnsley
Barnsley
Barnsley is a town in South Yorkshire, England. It lies on the River Dearne, north of the city of Sheffield, south of Leeds and west of Doncaster. Barnsley is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, of which Barnsley is the largest and...

, South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
South Yorkshire is a metropolitan county in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. It has a population of 1.29 million. It consists of four metropolitan boroughs: Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, and City of Sheffield...

, has around 32,000 members and close links with market traders' federations throughout Europe.

German-language area


The medieval right to hold markets is reflected in the prefix Markt of the names of many towns in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, for example, Markt Berolzheim
Markt Berolzheim
Markt Berolzheim is a municipality in the Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen district, in Bavaria, Germany.-References:...

 or Marktbergel
Marktbergel
Marktbergel is a municipality in the district of Neustadt -Bad Windsheim in Bavaria in Germany....

. Other terms used for market towns were Flecken in northern Germany, or Wigbold and Freiheit in Westphalia
Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

.

Market rights were designated as long ago as in the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

: in 800 Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 granted the title of a market town to Esslingen am Neckar
Esslingen am Neckar
Esslingen am Neckar is a city in the Stuttgart Region of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, capital of the District of Esslingen as well as the largest city in the district....

. The conferment was one of the regalia
Regalia
Regalia is Latin plurale tantum for the privileges and the insignia characteristic of a Sovereign.The word stems from the Latin substantivation of the adjective regalis, 'regal', itself from Rex, 'king'...

 in the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, as mentioned in the Constitutio by Frederick I Barbarossa
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

 at the 1158 Diet of Roncaglia
Diet of Roncaglia
The Diet of Roncaglia was held in 1158 near Piacenza as a general assembly of the nobles and ecclesiasts of the Holy Roman Empire and representatives of each of the fourteen Lombard League cities....

. With the rise of the territories, the ability to designate market towns was passed to the princes and dukes, as the basis of German town law
German town law
German town law or German municipal concerns concerns town privileges used by many cities, towns, and villages throughout Central and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages.- Town law in Germany :...

.

The local ordinance status of a market town (Marktgemeinde or Markt) is perpetuated through the law of the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 state of Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 province of South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

. Nevertheless the title has no further legal significance, as it does not grant any privileges.

Norway


In Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 the medieval market town (Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 kjøpstad from the old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 kaupstaðr) was a town which had been granted commerce privileges by the king or other authorities. The citizens in the town had a monopoly
Monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 over the purchase and sale of wares and operation of other businesses, both in the town and in the surrounding district.

Market towns were first created in Norway in the 12th century to encourage businesses to be concentrated around specific towns. Import
Import
The term import is derived from the conceptual meaning as to bring in the goods and services into the port of a country. The buyer of such goods and services is referred to an "importer" who is based in the country of import whereas the overseas based seller is referred to as an "exporter". Thus...

 and export
Export
The term export is derived from the conceptual meaning as to ship the goods and services out of the port of a country. The seller of such goods and services is referred to as an "exporter" who is based in the country of export whereas the overseas based buyer is referred to as an "importer"...

 was to be conducted only through market towns to allow oversight on commerce and to simplify imposition of excise taxes and customs duties. It served to encourage growth in areas which had strategic significance, providing a local economic base for construction of fortifications
Norwegian Fortresses
Norwegian fortresses or fortifications have been constructed from some of the earliest recorded periods, down through the 20th century. The geography and topography of glacially carved, mountainous Norway constrain both the sea and the land routes which an aggresser must follow...

 and population for defense of the area. It also served to restrict Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

 merchants from trading in areas other than those designated.

Norway included a subordinate category to the market town, the "small seaport" (Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

 lossested or ladested), which was a port or harbor with a monopoly to import and export goods and materials in both the port and for a surrounding outlying district. Typically these were locations for exporting timber and importing grain and goods. Local farm goods and timber sales were all required to pass through merchants at either a small seaport or a market town prior to export. This encouraged local merchants to ensure trading went through them, which was so effective in limiting unsupervised sales (smuggling
Smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

) that customs revenues increased from less than 30% of the total tax revenues in 1600 to more than 50% of the total taxes by 1700.

Norwegian “market towns” died out and were replaced by free markets in the 1800s. After 1952 both the “small seaport” and the “market town” have simple town status.

Further reading

  • Hogg, Garry. Market Towns of England. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles, 1974. ISBN 0715367986

External links