Canterbury: Markets and fairs

Pages 102-105

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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Markets and fairs

The city is plentifully supplied with all kind of provisions, for which there are two market days weekly, on a Wednesday and Saturday, both days for poultry, butter and garden stuff, much of which is brought from Sandwich hither; and the latter for butcher's meat, cheese, corn, hops and all sorts of cattle; besides which there is a good fish market held daily throughout the year. Besides the markets above-mentioned, there were antiently others, set apart for other commodities, in different parts of this city. Without Burgate, in St. Paul's parish, was, of antient time, a wheat market, at or about the corner on the left hand without the gate, as appears by the old rentals of Christ-church, relating to their tenements there; and in a deed or charter of lands given to St. Augustine's by one Dunwaldus in 760, mention is made of a vill, then situated in the market, at the Quenegate of this city; at the red wall, by the palace back gate, where there was another market, commonly called, and still remenbered by the name of the rush market; in St. George;s street, about the Augustine's Friars gate, there was a cloth market kept; in the High-street, beside St. Mary Bredman's church, was antiently kept a fish market; this fish market seems to have been of long continuance at this place; in a deed of Christ-church, anno 1187, mention is made of the patish of St. Mary's called the church of the fishmongers, in Canterbury, as it is again by the same name in a lease before that time, made by Odo, prior of Christ-church; and Mr. Somner conceived this to be the church intended by these deeds, and so as it was in his time from the bread market by it, called St. Mary Bredman's church, tho' it was more antiently called St. Mary Fishman's church. At Oatenhill, eastward, beyond St. George's gate, till of late the city's place of execution, (fn. 1) was formerly a market for the sale of oats; as at the same place before salt was sold, whence it was called Salt-hill; it had a market cross to it; for there is mention made of the ctoss at Oat-hill. Not far from hence, that is, by the nunnery, at the meeting of the four vents, or ways there, was another the field over against the nunnery southward, now almost all over digged for chalk, called the lime kilns, was antiently called Market-field; and lastly, not far from hence, without St. George's gate, as formerly, so there are now, bought and sold all sorts of cattle; whence, as is conjectured, the market took its name of rether cheap, which is in English, the drove market; and to shew the antiquity of it, the reader will observe, that the rederchepe is mentioned as a boundary in the second charter of king Ethelbert to St. Augustine. (fn. 2)

There was a fair, granted by the charter of king Henry VI. annually held in this city, on the 4th of August and the two next following days; but it has been long since discontinued and laid aside; but there are several yearly fairs, for toys and pedlary, held in the several parishes of this city and its suburbs, mostly on the days of the saints, to which the respective churches are dedicated.

Besides these, there is a principal fair, held yearly on Oct. 10, in the precincts of the ville of Christchurch, which is usually called Jack and Joane fair, from its being esteemed a statute fair, for the hiring of servants of both sexes, for which purposes it continues till the second Saturday or market day of the city has passed. (fn. 3)

Besides the intercourse with London and the several towns adjacent to this city, daily by land carriage, there are hoys, which sail from and return weekly to the ports of Whitstaple and Herne, for the conveyance of passengers and the heavier kinds of merchandize of all sorts; and from both of them, as well as from that of Fordwich, about two miles off, by the navigation of the river Stour from Sandwich, this city is supplied with plenty of sea coal for fuel.

This city and the adjacent country, as to the establishment of the customs, is within the port of Faversham; but there is an establishment of the excise here, under the management of a collector, supervisor, and other inferior officers.


  • 1. The corporation having fold the seite of this estate to a private individual, it has been converted into a pleasure ground, and the last unfortunate malesactor who was executed, suffered on a temporary scaffold erected between the gaol and the keeper's house, after the plan of the temporary scaffold used on these melancholy occasions at Newgate.
  • 2. See Battely's Somner, p. 80.
  • 3. Archbishop Courtney obtained of king Richard II. the grant of four fairs at the four principal feasts of peregrination in the year, viz. one on the Innocents day; another on Whitsun eve; another on the feast of St. Thomas Becket, being July 7, and the fourth and last on Michaelmas eve; to hold for nine days next following every of them, and to be kept within the scite of the priory. The fair above-mentioned on July 7, was called Becket's fair, being the day of the solemnity of that archbishop's translation from his tomb to his shrine, and as such, was fixed on for this purpose, as the means of gathering together a greater multitude hither, for the celebration of this solemn anniversary. For, as Sir Henry Spelman observes, fairs began by the flocking of Christians to the place for solemnizing some festival, such as either the feast of the church's dedication, or other like solemnity; and so it is easy to conjecture to what saint the place has been commended, by the fair day; and the fairs were greater or less as the church and town were in estimation; but however small these fairs at Canterbury grew in process of time, so as not to be at all considerable, yet, most certainly, they were once of greater request, and might justly boast of as great resort as any elsewhere, the decay of them arising from the desacing of the shrine of this saint, and the demolishing of the religious houses in and about the city, which were the magazines of reputed holy relics, the inducements to all sorts of people in those times for their frequent visiting of them. See Battely's Somner, p. 124, 135. Kennet's Parochial Antiq. p. 613. Pat. 7 H. VI. pro iv. feriis habcndis infra scitum prioratus.