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You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > History of Old Market Square

Old Market Square c.1927

Old Market Square c.1927

History of Old Market Square

Public floggings, animal bating, open sewerage and Goose Fair have all been a feature of Old Market Square in the last few centuries.

Local history enthusiast, Bernard Beilby gives us his account of Old Market Square's fascinating history.

Old Market Square was not the site of the the original weekday market for Saxon Nottingham. This was at Weekday Cross but there was often friction when the Norman population from around the Castle had to come into the Saxon town.

The birth

William Peveril, builder of Nottingham Castle, founded a new market on neutral ground for the two boroughs, now known as the Old Market Square.

The Exchange, Old Market Square c.1920

The Exchange, Old Market Square c.1920

It was a large market of five and a half acres, functioning from the 11th century until 1928.

A wall was built across the market, running east to west, dividing the animal market from the grain and commercial market - not as some people have suggested, to divide the two peoples.

The Exchange

In 1724 the first Exchange was built by Marmaduke Pennell, at a cost of £2400, and this became the administrative offices of the council together with the Old Guildhall in Weekday Cross.

Under what is now the dome of the Council House, were the Shambles - the meat market of Nottingham.

It left a good deal to be desired from the hygiene point of view for under it were caves used for storage of raw sewage and more recently (in this century) semi-wild cats often nibbled the meat before it was sold.

The Old Exchange clock is now in Trowell church tower.

In 1836 when the clock on the Exchange was illuminated by gas, the fan burner set the building on fire and gentlemen were offering rewards to anyone who would rescue the town's keg of gunpowder before it exploded.

In 1926 the old Exchange was demolished and the Council House replaced it in 1929, opened by the Prince of Wales.

Public flogging and beast bating

In the Square criminals were punished by being put in the stocks or pillory; women were publicly flogged either at the whipping post or at the cart tail for quite minor offences such as stealing 10d worth of coal.

Goose Fair on Old Market Square c.1906

Goose Fair on Old Market Square c.1906

They were also put in the cookstool and dunked in a muddy pool in the square.

Butchers were required to have their beasts bated by dogs for public sport in the square before they were slaughtered for meat.

On the Square

The market was removed in 1928 to the site of old St. John's prison on King Edward Street, and now has moved to the Victoria Centre.

The arcaded walks around the Square grew out of the jettied, overhanging fronts of buildings which, when the timbers became weak, were propped up with timber posts.

If no-one objected to these for a year, they could be made permanent.

Running from Sheep Lane (Market Street) to Cow Lane (Clumber Street) was an open sewer which probably fed the pumps and wells in the square.

For many centuries there were two crosses in the square and one on the Poultry which were the centres of activity in the early days.

Goose Fair

Here in the Square, Goose Fair was held until 1927 when the area had to be closed to traffic for a week.

From 1928 the Fair has been held at the Forest.

The first mention of a fair, at the feast of St. Matthew (21st September), was in 1284 but it was only called Goose Fair in 1541 and it lasted for nine days, being of course a trade fair.

It was reduced to five days in 1876, and to three days in 1880.

last updated: 21/03/2008 at 12:25
created: 06/03/2008

You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > History of Old Market Square



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