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14th century fair.
typically livestock and bulk produce were traded, can make a mistake, a charter wouldn’t have been
resulting in perhaps a smaller number of large trans- granted without the expectation of a market or fair
actions taking place. providing revenue.
The Normans promoted the establishment of Local people rarely travelled further afield than a
markets and fairs by initiating the granting of charters neighbouring market town. An exception, for those
to their supporters. Where market and fair rights did wealthy enough, was a pilgrimage to a shrine. One of
not exist by ancient custom, a petition had to be made the most famous in England was Canterbury, where
to the king for a grant for a new market or a new fair, the pilgrim visitors provided a hungry market for sou-
which was given upon payment of the appropriate venirs and relics. Pilgrim visitors came to Canterbury
fee. Charters were usually awarded in the name of from all over Britain and the Continent following the
the petitioner rather than the place, although this murder of Thomas Becket in 1170.
was often mentioned, and it became usual to grant
both a market and a fair simultaneously to the same Between the 13th and 16th centuries there were
person. The granting of medieval market and fair two distinct periods of change in markets separated
rights - with the expanding population, subsequent by the catastrophic outbreak of the Black Death
booming economy, and the increasing need for in 1348-9. Prior to the 13th century, most of the
market trading - provided the holder (often a mano- population had been largely self-sufficient, trad-
rial lord or a religious house), with a good source of ing when necessary by barter or exchange through
income. The existence of a charter does not, however, mainly informal methods. From the late 12th century
guarantee that a market or fair was actually held any onwards the holding of informal markets increased,
more than lack of documentary evidence guarantees resulting in the introduction of regulations by the
that a market or fair either wasn’t held or vanished. crown in order to formalise the holding of new mar-
But our ancestors weren’t silly and while anyone kets and to protect existing established ones.
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