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Taunton Market in 1910
End of market's 1,000 year history
As the last ever Taunton Market has taken place, we take a look at how it all started.
It is unknown exactly when the first market took place however during the reign of Alfred the Great, it was deemed a safe enough place to have a mint where silver coins were made so there was evidently a need for local money.
The market and the mint are mentioned in the Domesday Book, King William I’s tax survey of his kingdom made in 1086.
It was held just south of the River Tone at the point where North Street, East Reach and the High Street now meet. By 1321, a market cross known as the High Cross stood at the meeting point of Fore Street and High Street, known as Cornhill. This triangular market site survived until 1929 when it was moved to Priory Bridge Road to make way for traffic.
The county museum holds the mint coins
The medieval market was noisy, smelly and crowded. There wasn't many shops, so people came to the weekly market to buy their food and drink as well as cloths, pots and pans. Butchers would kill their animals at the market and sell the meat immediately because it would not keep.
Traders who cheated their customers by using false weights and measures, adding water to beer or putting stones in a sack of corn to make it heavier, would be tried at a special court and were either fined or put in the stocks or pillory for the day.
Dogs attacking bulls
According to the Hampshire Record Office, after 1158 the market developed from an open space where sellers turned up on the day to set up their pitches to one where sellers paid for specific plots.
Fore Street in 1841
The Cornhill eventually became too crowded on market days and a pig market was set up by 1614 between High and Paul streets.
The markets were very busy and chaotic and the butchers' stalls became known as 'shambles'. Every bull that was to be slaughtered had to be tied up and publicly attacked by dogs before it was killed on site as this was believed to improve the quality of the meat. The market was famed for the amount of meat sold on Saturdays and in 1633 was served by 140 butchers.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the market grew in size and popularity and trustees were tasked with the job of organising it more effectively. They built market houses, charged tolls and cleaned the streets.
The market in 1841
Livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs and horses were driven to market right up until the early 20th century. They were originally sold at the main market but were moved to nearby sites due to overcrowding.
With the invention of motor vehicles, holding a livestock market in the centre of Taunton became unmanageable so it moved to Priory Bridge Road in 1929 where it remained until 2008.
last updated: 18/01/2008 at 16:34
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