Winchester: Fairs and trades

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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'Winchester: Fairs and trades', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, ed. William Page( London, 1912), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Winchester: Fairs and trades', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Edited by William Page( London, 1912), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Winchester: Fairs and trades". A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Ed. William Page(London, 1912), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section


Winchester, well placed on a river navigable by small craft to the foot of St. Giles Down, near but not too near the coast and served by ancient roads, was predestined for the haunt of custom, quickened later by all the demands of a capital city. Walkelin procured from William Rufus the grant of a fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Giles, to be held 'on the Eastern hill of Winchester.' Henry I extended the fair-time for a further five days in exchange for lands taken from the bishopric. Stephen (fn. 1) granted six days more and Henry Plantagenet early (fn. 2) in his reign, characteristically ignoring his predecessor's charter, doubled the number of days allowed by his grandfather. This period of sixteen days, though frequently increased to twenty or twenty-four by temporary grants (fn. 3) and often in practice exceeded, seems to have been regarded as the normal limit during the 12th and much of the following century.

During the reign of Henry II the fair of St. Giles' Down was probably the first in England. Under the later Angevins it shared at least an equal glory with the fair of St. Ives and the famous mart of Holland or Boston. During the fair-time at Boston and Winchester even the Hustings Court of London was adjourned. (fn. 4) As early too as the year 1162 we have a hint of the extension of the bishop's fair from the crest of St. Giles Down toward the Eastgate of the city, for when the traders' booths caught fire the suburb of 'Chushulle' was also burnt. (fn. 5) On the first Pipe Roll of King Richard (fn. 6) the issues of the fair held during the vacancy of the see are recorded to have reached the great sum of £146 8s. 7d. It is doubtful whether at any later period they attained a much higher figure. Certainly for the four years from 1240 to 1244 the yearly average was about £125 13s. (fn. 7) and the inevitable decline had already begun.

It is unfortunate that detailed accounts of St. Giles' Fair are wanting during the time of its chief prosperity, but from incidental allusions on the Patent and Close Rolls and elsewhere we obtain a tolerably complete account of the principal merchants, both native and foreign, who in September of each year set out their goods for sale in the booths on the hill. The most important of the English traders were the men of London. So many of these were accustomed to be present that legal business in that city was adjourned until their return. Their absence from the fair was regarded as a grave misfortune, and on one occasion in 1220 they were encouraged (fn. 8) to proceed thither under safe conduct, notwithstanding that 'William earl of Salisbury is moved to anger against them.' From an early period (fn. 9) they were allowed to elect attorneys or judicial assessors to hear, apparently in association with the judges of the Pavilion Court of the fair, cases in which their fellow citizens were involved. It is possible that their chief merchandise was cloth, and even as late as the reign of Edward I no less than £4 2s. was paid to the bishop as rent (fn. 10) for the seldae or booths 'Burellorum Londonie,' which probably included at least thirty 'fenestrae' or windows. But the clothiers were not the only Londoners present, for in a deed of John de Stoke and his wife Juliana, enrolled on the Soke Accounts (fn. 11) at the beginning of the 14th century, we hear of 'the street where in the time of the fair the goldsmiths of London sell their jewels (jocalia).' As late as the year 1335 (fn. 12) the city of London still appointed attorneys to act on their behalf at St. Giles' Fair, but it is possible that after the outbreak of the Hundred Years' War they ceased to attend in any number, though in 1346 London merchants are mentioned as buying wool from the bishop. (fn. 13) York, Beverley, Lincoln, Leicester and Northampton (fn. 14) were all accustomed from time to time to send goods to the fair, and as late as the reign of Edward I both the York and Lincoln merchants had special quarters assigned to them, but the Lincoln men were by this time ceasing to frequent the fair. (fn. 15) At an earlier date, in 1233, the king ordered that the thirty cloths which the good men of Lincoln ha l agreed to prepare for the king's use for delivery to William the royal tailor at Stowe Fair on the Day of the Assumption (15 August) should be delivered instead at Winchester Fair. At the same time the clothiers of York and Beverley were to provide thirty cloths and those of Leicester ten. Besides cloth it is probable that the northern cities may have sent wool and hides, though Hampshire and the neighbouring counties probably furnished the bulk of these products which were sold at the fair as well as horses and other stock. Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Wiltshire were certainly large contributors and even from the Cotswolds and Hereford wool may have been sent. (fn. 16) The West countrymen (fn. 17) possibly brought coarse cloth from an early period in addition to tin and perhaps lead, (fn. 18) but more is heard of them in the 14th century, when they were the chief merchants coming from a distance who continued to frequent the fair. When the Irish first came we do not know; it is possible that their presence was of long standing, though Bristol naturally took the bulk of their trade, but they were certainly accustomed to visit the fair by the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 19)

The foreign merchants may be classified (fn. 20) as Spanish and Provençal (fn. 21) Gascons, Flemings from Ypres, Ghent, Bruges, Ardenburg, Douay and Dam, Brabanters and men of the Duke of Louvain, French and Normans and men of the Emperor with perhaps a few Italians, though there is little mention of these last in the most prosperous days of the fair. But the spices and silks of the East must have been brought directly or indirectly by Italian agency. Much woad came from Toulouse, the bulk of the wine from Gascony, the best iron from Spain and the fine textile stuffs, madder and brass ware from the Low Countries and the Rhineland. Indeed, as to this last product, the Justice of the Pavilion, the Bishop's Treasurer and the Clerk of the Pleas by ancient usage received as their fee four basins and ewers from the 'Dynanntters' (fn. 22) who sold brass at the fair. Strange beasts and birds, apes, bears and ferrets were also brought for sale to St. Giles' Down. (fn. 23)

It is now necessary, before glancing at the early detailed accounts which have reached us, to describe very briefly how the holding of the fair affected, and indeed paralysed for the time being, the municipal life of Winchester. On the vigil of St. Giles (fn. 24) the seneschal with the justice of the Bishop's Court of Pavilion or the treasurer rode out from Wolvesey Palace and entered the city at Kingsgate, where the mayor, bailiffs and citizens met them and handed over the city keys and custody, as well as those of Southgate. Here the fair was for the first time (fn. 25) proclaimed in the usual form: 'Let no merchant or other for these sixteen days within a circuit of seven leagues round the fair, sell, buy or set out for sale any merchandise in any place other than the fair under penalty of forfeiture of goods to the Bishop.' Thence the officers rode to Westgate, of which they received the keys, as also the custody of the great 'trona' or weighing-beam. Similarly Northgate and Eastgate (fn. 26) were placed in the custody of the bishop's officers, who after other proclamations (fn. 27) rode out with the city fathers in their train to the Pavilion on St. Giles' Hill, where the seneschal and justices held a sitting of the court of the Soke called the 'Cheyne' court, to summon the bishop's suitors and tenants for service at the fair and Court of Pavilion. A marshal, usher and chamberlain of the pavilion, three 'catch-poles' for the three toll-gates, and other officers were appointed, and ultimately (fn. 28) the mayor and bailiffs of the city were dismissed as mere private persons to their homes during the period of the fair, while the seneschal and justices were at liberty to appoint a mayor, bailiffs and coroner (fn. 29) for the city during the time of the fair, and, in fact, controlled the entire life of the city, for the Pavilion Court not only dealt with actions as to debts between traders at the fair 'by way of proving tallies according to the law merchant,' but swept up the whole legal business of Winchester and its suburbs within the seven-league limit, while every function of civic government and the regulation of trade (fn. 30) was transferred to the episcopal officials. As we shall see from the accounts, guards were placed on the roads round Winchester and tolls levied, while in the fair itself at sundown each day the bishop's marshal ordered every stall to be shut until the dawn of the next day, and after this proclamation no one but the bishop's officers might move about in the fair and open fires were strictly forbidden.

Southampton, which lay outside the seven-league limit, was often a source of great vexation and annoyance to the bishop, as the municipal authorities of the port had it in their power if they desired to hamper the fair of St. Giles by offering counter attractions to traders. In 1251, for instance, the burgesses of Southampton, with many merchants, Irish and others, held their tronage and pesage at the southern port and put in no appearance at the fair. (fn. 31) But in consequence of this and similar happenings, in the time of Aymer, (fn. 32) bishop-elect, an agreement was made by which the men of Southampton allowed the bishop's marshal to proclaim the fair there also, and after this proclamation, although victuals might still be bought and sold in Southampton, it was expected that other merchandise and goods should be sent to the fair at Winchester.

As already stated, it is probable that the fair of St. Giles had reached its high-watermark of prosperity under the Angevins. In the reign of John it stood in almost equal rank with the fairs of Boston and St. Ives. In 1240 the four chief fairs of England were those of Boston, Winchester, St. Ives and Northampton, (fn. 33) and the net issues of St. Giles' fair averaged some £125 per annum. The civil troubles of the Barons' War (fn. 34) undoubtedly disturbed trade, and whatever recovery had taken place in the twenty years that followed Evesham the net issues of the fair paid to the bishop's treasurer at Wolvesey in 1289 show a falling-off of some 30 per cent. on the figures of 1240–4, and continued to fall. (fn. 35) In 1292 (fn. 36) the restriction of the profits taken by the bishop to the sixteen normal days may possibly have had something to do with the falling-off, since we hear that on this occasion 'statim post sextamdeciman diem feria capta fuit in manu domini Regis.' The account for this year is enrolled in some detail, and a few particulars may be noticed. The receipts from the fair gates (Southgate, Eastgate and Westgate) were £11 2s. 8d. From the great weighbeam £4 2s. 4d. was returned. The terragium or ground-rents paid for stallage and places in the hands of private persons or religious houses and corporations (fn. 37) reached the sum of £25 15s. 8d. Again, of the Irish 'seld' 31 fenestrae were let at 2s. 6d. a piece, the Yorkshiremen paid £1 18s., the London burellers £4 2s., and of the French 'selds' no less than 40 fenestrae were let at 3s. a piece. The Lincoln men, however, paid only half a mark. The returns from tolls levied on the roads outside the city may indicate that the main body of traders came up from Southampton and Romsey. The stock-money, or boagium, is returned at 5s. 6d., and 15s. was derived 'de ministerio animalium in feria,' and 46s. 8d. from 'de ministerio animalium in pratis et campis.' Some of these entries may refer to the agistment and keep of pack-horses which carried merchandise to the fair, though carts were also used. (fn. 38) The profits of the provostry (prepositura) of the city reached the sum of £6, while 30s. was derived 'de ministeriis sellarum et scalarum,' that is from the saddlers and stirrup-makers, craftsmen who were busily employed all the fair-time. The returns from other crafts were small, and may indicate a disinclination to work for the bishop's profit. Under 'de ministerio burellorum' only 13d. is returned, under 'de ministerio cardonum' 12d., and 'de ministerio rotarum' 7d. Pleas and perquisites brought in £4 17s. 7d., and no less than £5 18s. 6d. was paid by merchants for leave to enter the fair after the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (8 September). There was, indeed, a constant tendency (fn. 39) on the part of the traders to reach the fair late and endeavour to stay late. In fact, a few years after this we find John of Pontoise threatening with excommunication (fn. 40) dilatory lingerers at the fair who cheated the bishop of his tolls. The sum total of receipts is returned at £84 15s. 7½d. for sixteen days, but we find that Nicholas de Anne and William de Stoke kept Eastgate for twenty days, and that Southgate and Westgate were in the hands of Ernald de Burlee and John de Botes respectively for a similar period. In fact, the fair dues for the extra days were put 'in quadam pixide' (fn. 41) in the bishop's custody, and, after some deduction made for current expenses, sealed up by the subescheator and sheriff. At Redbridge and the Romsey bridge over the Test toll was taken, as well as at Hursley at the junction of the Romsey and Southampton roads, at Crawley, and also at Cheriton and Alresford. At the 'Passus de Alton,' where the road ran near thick woodland infested with outlaws and landless men, (fn. 42) the bishop kept strong patrols of men-at-arms mounted and on foot for sixteen days, the horsemen being paid 6d. a day each and the footmen 2d. Besides the officials of the Pavilion, the chamberlain Robert Pershore, the usher John de Anne and the 'Clamator Bannorum,' a force of armed police under the marshal guarded the fair and the Court of Pavilion. From the receipts of the fair the expenses of the episcopal household at Wolvesey during fairtime were defrayed, and these absorbed £13 7s. 2d., nearly two-thirds of the total outgoings, which amounted to £20 9s. 7d. The residue of the receipts left, a sum of £64 6s. 0½d., was paid over to Sir Payn, the treasurer at Wolvesey.

The outbreak of the Gascon war was a critical period in the history of the fair; gross receipts soon diminished by one-third, and, as expenses had a tendency to keep up, the loss in net issues to the episcopal treasury was even greater in proportion. During the reign of Edward II the gross receipts of the fair rarely, if ever, exceeded £56 or £57, and the largest sum paid to the treasury at Wolvesey in net issues in any one year was £33 2s. 7¼d. in 1311. By this time (fn. 43) the North countrymen had, it would appear, ceased to come to the fair in any numbers, and we find a memorandum that the old selda Lyncolnie had been sold to Robert Daundely, who had removed it. The booths of the Irish and French were still, however, well let, but there is reason to believe that French booths were already largely occupied by West countrymen.

By 1346 the fair (fn. 44) found its mainstay amongst merchants from a distance: in the Cornishmen, (fn. 45) who paid £4 4s. for 28 fenestrae, and a certain number of Irish, Flemish and German traders (fn. 46) who were also present; and we hear of wool belonging to the bishop being sold to London merchants. Yet it is evident that in spite of the continued presence of a few foreigners the fair of St. Giles had to a great extent ceased to be of international importance and was gradually sinking to the level of a local Wessex and West Country mart. The total receipts during the sixteen days it lasted only reached the sum of £30 7s. 10¼d., while the expenses were very heavy in proportion, amounting to £24 13s. 9¼d. So only between £5 and £6 reached the treasurer at Wolvesey.

In the year (fn. 47) of the first great pestilence (1349) the receipts of the fair fell very low 'pro maxima morte hominum,' as the accountant explains. The terragium, or ground rents, indeed, brought in £6 4s. 2d., but the boagium was nil, and only nine fenestrae were let to the Cornishmen. (fn. 48) Over £9 was advanced by the treasurer of Wolvesey to meet expenses and balance the account. But for this the total gross receipts would have been less than £14. In the same year, at the request of the bishop, Edward II confirmed in the fullest manner the privileges of the fair, and some recovery in receipts occurred. In 1353 the gross takings (fn. 49) were £34 1s. 7¾d., and, after the deduction of expenses, £9 6s. 8½d. was paid in at Wolvesey and 37s. 6d. remained in arrear.

By 1362, however, owing to the second pestilence and changing conditions, the improvement, such as it was, had been arrested. In this year the accountant (fn. 50) mentions no less than £11 9s. 1d. as being in arrear from the previous year, and the ground rents were rather lower than in the year of the Black Death— £5 17s. 3d. and one pound of cummin (cymini). 'And no more,' explains the accountant,

Because 1 shop and a half of the Sub-Prior of St. Swithun Winchester accustomed to pay 12d. a year and 2 shops belonging to St. Cross, each paying 20d., are in the lord's hands recovered by the 'stake' for this the second year [in succession]. One shop of the Abbess of The Blessed Mary's is in utter decay, one shop of the warden of the Lady Altar of St. Swithun which rendered 8d. and 1 shop of the Almoner of Hyde which rendered the same are altogether tumbled down and their sites recovered by 'stake' for the first time this year [hoc anno primo]. One house of the demesne (?) of the Blessed Mary, which rendered 8s., one place belonging to John Seward which rendered 6d. and one standing (fn. 51) (terragium) with a shed [pentico] belonging to Thomas Thorncombe which rendered 8d. have stood empty for the last two years and are claimed by a 'stake.' Also one shop belonging to Thomas Devenissh which paid 12d., one shop of Laurence Andevere which paid 8d., 2 terragia of the Wardens of the Spicery [Speciarum] of St. Swithun's which rendered 20d., one house and one place of John Nhottele which rendered 2s., one terragium of the Prior of St. Swithun which rendered 12d., 2 terragia of Ralph Attechurch at the Corner which rendered 4d. have stood empty for two years as well as one shop of the Wardens of St. John's House which paid a mark for it is in utter decay.

And so the melancholy catalogue runs on: more holdings of the Wardens of St. Swithun's Spicery, still more valuable lots of the canons of Dureford, three terragia of the Vintner of Hyde, and further property of St. John's House and other local foundations —all abandoned. Amongst the holdings of laymen was le Ryole or le Righol, formerly John Gabriel's and of late Robert Chertsey's, where, as we learn from other accounts, the Cornishmen used at one time to gather, but for a year it had stood empty and ruined. And now the West countrymen occupied only eleven windows in their booth. In this, as in other of the later accounts of the fair, the very large amount of property once belonging to religious foundations is noteworthy. Sometimes, as in the case of the spicery of St. Swithun's, a large retail trade seems to have been done by the monastery—doubtless with much advantage to its finances when the fair was flourishing; but often the religious houses merely held shops and standings to let again, as, for example, St. John's House, (fn. 52) which had at one time amongst its tenants the merchants of Douay and Ypres. But from 1361 onwards we hear of these properties as derelict. Direct trading brought little profit, owing to lack of customers, and this no doubt barely defrayed the cost of necessary repairs; while year by year, as one class after another of foreign merchants ceased to visit the fair, the once valuable property became a worthless encumbrance to the unfortunate monastery or hospital which owned it.

Amongst other items in this year's account, it may be noticed that there were no Irish traders present, and that, though the shops in Candlewick Street paid half a mark, those in the Saddlers' Street were unroofed and returned nothing, because unlet; while the holding once Seman le Skynnere's was level with the ground (prostrata omnino). The boagium, however, reached 14s., which suggests a cattle market of some extent. The pleas and perquisites of the Court of Pavilion also kept up well, and amounted to £6 8s. 2d.; but, as the expenses (fn. 53) were no less than £33 11s. 7½d., there was a debt of £8 4s. in arrear, even after the treasurer, Master Walter of Sevenhampton, had advanced £8 7s. 3½d. from his reserves at Wolvesey.

In 1388–9 actual receipts (fn. 54) were lower, and are only returned at £21 8s. 9½d. by including £6 2s. 6d. arrears. The ground rents had fallen still further to £3 4s. 6½d. and a pound of cummin—about oneeighth of the amount produced a hundred years before. Expenses, however, had been reduced to £11 3s. 10d., of which £8 5s. 2d. was spent at the Wolvesey hospicium for twenty-four days' maintenance. As a result £4 was paid to Sir John de Keton at the treasury, and the rest remained in arrear.

From this time forth the decadence of the fair was steady and irrevocable. In 1420 (16 Bishop Henry Beaufort) the combined ground and other rents (fn. 55) only produced 14s. Even the old-established shops of the Frary and Kalendars were for the most part abandoned, both those in the Drapery, the Palmerseld and that called Pelham, and in regard to the Palmerseld the accountant remarks that nothing could be found there for distraint. But some shops of Dureford Abbey, in the Haberdashers' Row and elsewhere, were apparently still tenanted. The boagium reached 5s. 4d., besides the agistment fees paid for accommodation in the great meadow appertaining to Wolvesey. One item of receipts, however, was apparently rising: the pleas and perquisites of the Pavilion Court brought in no less than £7 10s. 1d. Even with these and 28s. of arrears the total receipts came to only £10 5s. 7d. As the commercial aspect of the fair was no longer the first consideration, no money was wasted this year in guarding the Alton road, for few merchants passed through the king's forest to St. Giles' Down. But, on the other hand, there was paid to Richard Holte, justiciary of the pavilion, for his labour, 40s.; to the chamberlain, John Compton, 5s.; and the usher, 4s. The tricks of the trader (fn. 56) were yielding place to the chicane of law. The total expenses reached £8 12s. 2d., of which £5 11s. was due to the charges of the bishop's house at Wolvesey, and, as 30s. was in arrear, only 3s. 5d. could be paid to the episcopal treasurer. By the close of the century the fair had come to exist merely for the profits of the Pavilion Court. In 1451 the disputes between the bishop and the mayor and citizens as to the rights of the former during the fair resulted in a composition between them. (fn. 57) In 1488 the ground rent (fn. 58) paid was a sorry shilling, no booths were let, and out of the total receipts of £7 9s. 11d. no less than £7 1s. 10d. was derived from the perquisites of a court which applicants (fn. 59) for equitable relief sometimes styled 'illegal.' Their language was perhaps extravagant, but they expressed a widespread feeling that the Pavilion Court was being developed into an engine of tyranny and exaction.


By the middle of the 15th century the patience of the citizens of Winchester under the exclusive fair rights of the bishop was exhausted. In 1449 they petitioned the king for a yearly fair, and he granted them the same to last from the vigil of the feast of the Translation of St. Swithun and eight days following, providing that such should not be to the damage of neighbouring fairs. (fn. 60) It was probably on the strength of this grant that the citizens submitted to the agreement with the bishop in 1451 (see supra). However, although the citizens now had their own fair, and were in 1518 to be licensed to hold two fairs, one on the day and morrow of St. Edward the Confessor and the other on the Monday and Tuesday of the first week of Lent, (fn. 61) the yearly burden of the Court of the Pavilion still remained an irritating and expensive element of the city life. Thus in January 1536, evidently after previous negotiations had been effected, the mayor and citizens wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking that 'they shall be no more burdened by the great exactions laid on the king's subjects by the unlawful court of Pavylyon.' (fn. 62) The hopes of the citizens were evidently disappointed, since in August of the same year they again addressed their complaint to Cromwell. This last year they had hoped by the advice of Cromwell and their learned counsel to have withdrawn their personal suits from the Pavilion Court and to have denied them from liberties and meddlings within this the king's city. If they had not received Cromwell's letter on the eve of St. Giles they would have put the said discontinuance in execution. (fn. 63) The charter of Elizabeth confirmed the city in its three fairs together with the Court of Pie Powder attached during the fairs and stallage, picage, fines, amercements and all other profits. (fn. 64) These fairs were still held in 1834, one of them being leased out by the corporation, the tolls of the other being taken by the serjeants-at-mace. The first was a sheep fair and the toll was 1s. 6d. on every pen of fifty sheep exposed.

At the present day a cattle and seed fair is held on the last Saturday in February, a cattle, horse, sheep, pigs and pleasure fair on 23 and 24 October. The latter was until the last few years held in the lower part of the High Street, but being a hindrance to traffic and business was removed to a field at Bar End, where it takes place on a smaller scale.

From 'time immemorial' (fn. 65) the mayor, bailiffs and citizens had a weekly market on Fridays and Sundays with all liberties, customs, &c., pertaining to the same. In 1449 they petitioned at the time of the request for a fair to have one market on Saturdays in place of those on Friday and Sunday. Henry VI granted them their request. (fn. 66) A Wednesday market was added before 1587, and both were confirmed by Elizabeth in her charter of that year. (fn. 67) Two markets were still held in 1834 subject to the same tolls as the fairs. The tolls were taken by the serjeants-at-mace. (fn. 68) One market is now held on Saturdays at the Corn Exchange.


Perhaps there is no better summary of the 'divers artyficers and crafts within the cytie' of Winchester than that given in an ordinance of 1437 giving the order of 'a sartyne generall processyon in the feast of Corpus Christi.' The 'carpenters and hellyore (tylers) shall goo together first, smythes and barbors second, cookes and bochars thyrd, shoemakers with two lyghtes fourth, tanners and tapeners fifth, plumers and sylkemakers sixth, fisshers and furryers seventh, caverners eight, weyvers with two lightes neingth, fullars with two lyghtes tenth, dyars with two lyghtes eleventh, chaundelars and brewers twelfth, mercers with two lights thirteenth, the wyves with one lyght and John Blake with another light fourteenth.' The tailors are left out of this list, but they would probably be included among the bearers of the 'four lyghtes of the Brothers of St. John borne abought the body of our lord in the same day in the procession aforesaid,' since the brotherhood attached to the Hospital of St. John owed its origin to the 'providence of the tailors of Winchester.' (fn. 69) There is a stipulation at the end of the ordinance that if any of the artificers should make any debate or strife as to places or absent themselves from the procession, then the craft to which they belonged should forfeit 120s. If any 'one crafte' should slander another he should forfeit 6s. 8d. (fn. 70)

The earliest trade gilds of Winchester were the fullers' and weavers' gilds, suggesting, as the fact was, that the cloth and wool trades were the best organized and the most important in the city in the 12th century, and indeed it was the Winchester wool and looms that brought English wool into so much reputation. (fn. 71) In the Pipe Rolls of the early years of the reign of Henry II both fullers and weavers rendered £6 pro gilda sua quite separately from the 20 marks of the Chapmans' Hall. (fn. 72) In 1165–6, however, the weavers began to pay 1 mark of gold (£6) 'de Gersuma pro consuetudinis libertatibus suis habendis pro eligendo Aldermanno suo,' and 1 mark of gold pro gilda sua. From that time, while the fullers continued to pay £6, the weavers paid their 2 marks of gold (£12). (fn. 73) There are early signs of the oppression of the weavers and fullers, probably by the members of the gild merchant. Thus in the laws of the weavers and fullers of Winchester dating from the early years of the 13th century they are forbidden to dry or dip cloth or go outside the town to do any trade or to sell their cloth to any foreigner, but only to the merchants of the city. Moreover, if either weaver or fuller should pur sa richesse attempt to do any trade outside the city the prudes hommes of the city might seize his goods and chattels as forfeit; further, if they should sell cloth to a foreigner the latter should lose the goods and the other should remain 'en la merci de la cite de quant ke il a.' No fuller or weaver should buy anything belonging to his mystery without making agreement with the sheriff every year; no freeman could be attainted by a fuller or weaver, nor could they bear witness; and if any one of them should so enrich himself that he wished to give up his mystery he should forswear it and turn all his tools out of doors and 'do so much to the city to be in the freedom.' (fn. 74)

The 13th-century usages of the city of Winchester bear out some of these details. Further, no man was to make 'burels' (coarse broad cloth) unless he were of the franchise, but every fuller might make one in the year and every other maker must give one (cloth) to the king's ferm every year. Every chalon was to be 4½ ells long and 4½ ells wide. (fn. 75) Edward III in his utilitarian policy of encouraging the wool and cloth trade finally re-established the staple system and Winchester as one of the eight staple towns of England by statute of 1353. (fn. 76) The year of the final establishing of the staple system, 1353, Henry Rende and John atte Mersshe, the bailiffs of the city, received from pesage and customs of the staple, before the feast of St. Michael the Archangel that year, £21 10s. 8d. The year 1353 was marked by the repair and mending of the staple house. (fn. 77) However, the new prosperity was not to last long, the ordinance of 1363 removing the English staples to the newlyacquired town of Calais directed the wool trade irrevocably to Flanders and practically deprived Winchester of its special industry.

In spite of the apparent revival of the cloth industry in the later decades of the 14th century the wars abroad and at home of the 15th century were perhaps the greatest enemies to the cloth and wool trade. Thus when the city was in so desperate a state in 1450 the trade must have suffered, especially considering the enormous loss of inhabitants. (fn. 78) So much had the trade decayed by the 16th century that the mayor and commonalty themselves did all in their power to encourage the cloth makers, and in 1555 the Marquess of Winchester wrote to the mayor and commonalty bidding them 'accept to the enjoying of that your liberties franchises and Brotherhood amongst you' a certain Edward Gascoigne who had planted himself in the city and taken in hand the making of cloth 'for the releiffe and setting on work of a multitude of poore folke in these parties,' so that 'without the clogge of bearinge your baillewick or any other enferior offices he may quietly proceed in his good enterprise of cloth making and may be encouraged to contynewe the same.' (fn. 79) In 1559 the mayor and commonalty when granting the ulnage of cloth to Roger Ryve of Basingstoke exempted one house in the city wherein a clothier should dwell from payment of ulnage. (fn. 80)

An ordinance of 1563 settled that 'no occupier or artificer other than clothiers and such as belong to cloth making and working being no franchisemen' should set up occupations or crafts within the city before compounding with the mayor. (fn. 81)

William Wilson in 1572 was granted a tenement in the parish of St. Mary's Litton 'unless the bailiffs of the city should think well to put in a clothier,' in which case William Wilson should avoid the premises. (fn. 82)

By an ordinance of 1575 no manner of persons other than those occupying by retail the following goods: linen cloth, velvets, mercery, haberdashery, grocery, woollen cloth, silks, 'lattus ware' or 'linsey wolsey,' should sell the same by retail unless a member of the gild merchant. (fn. 83) In January 1578 came the 16th-century incorporation of the fullers and weavers. (fn. 84) 'By reason of moche evill directions and order daielie used amongst themselves,' as well as because of divers unmarried persons who 'not beinge thirtie yeres of age neither worth tenne poundes of theire owne gooddes,' and many 'not having been apprentice to those artes doo unorderlie sette uppe use and exercise the same occupation,' the fullers and weavers of the city who hitherto had 'kept householde and borne the brunte of divers and sundry great charges within the city' now 'for want of sufficient worke' were neither able 'to sette any jornyman on work neither yet have worke sufficient for themselves wherebie they might susteyne theire poore famelies and beare the said charges to their grete decaye and overthrow.' For remedy whereof the mayor and commonalty in assembly granted that the nineteen fullers (named) and the seventeen weavers (named) and their successors should be incorporated with power to elect two fullers and two weavers as wardens of the company to be nominated, presented and sworn at the borough court, the said wardens paying 8d. each yearly to the town clerk for entering their names. Any who should now or afterwards be apprentices to any of the company should be admitted to the same on payment of 10s. 'when he beginneth to occupie for himself' one half to the company, the other to the chamber of the city. Any person hereafter admitted who should not have been so apprenticed should pay 40s. for his admission. None of the company were to open their shops or work on Sundays under pain of forfeiting 3s. 4d., or to carry or recarry or cause to be carried any cloth from the mill on Sunday after eight o'clock, on pain of forfeiting 4d. If any stranger should marry a fuller or weaver's widow he should pay 20s. to the company before it should be lawful for him to set up for himself. The wardens might enter the houses of any of the company and search 'any cloth or clothes or piece or peeces of cloth weaved or made whether the same be well or artificiallye weyved wroughte and made,' and 'yf any defaulte' should be found it should be presented at the next borough court. The mayor and his compeers were to form the court of appeal in all difficulties and doubts arising in the company. (fn. 85) Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries both the cloth and wool trade lived only a struggling existence in spite of the attempts of the Stuarts to revive the wool trade.

According to the usages of the city of Winchester (13th and 15th centuries) every shoemaker of the city who had an open shop was bound to pay 6d. yearly to the king for custom and to the town clerk one penny to enrol his name, (fn. 86) and every shoemaker who made 'shoue' of new leather was bound to pay 2d. in the name of 'Shougable.' (fn. 87) The mayor and corporation regulated this trade with the rest. Thus, for instance, in May 1574 they forbade any shoemaker of the city to burn any 'shridds' (shreds) but between the hours of nine at night and four in the morning, and ordered them to see that all shreds so burnt were thoroughly quenched before four in the morning on pain of 3s. 4d.

A 16th-century incorporation of the shoemakers and cobblers of the city took place in August 1580, a sharp distinction being drawn between the two branches of the trade. 'Earnest and pitifull complaints' had been made by the shoemakers and cobblers, not only because of certain persons who 'under color of the freedom of the city,' although not apprenticed, used the said trade in the city, but because of those who 'either ignorantly or for wicked lucre and gayne offer and sell boots shoes stiruppes and pantaples of faultie decayed and evell tanned leather to the great hurte and deceate of people and the diminishing of the trade of lawful shoemakers.' Ten shoemakers and six cobblers were therefore formed into a company with two elected wardens at their head. New members were to be admitted by these wardens, the shoemakers who had not been apprenticed paying £6 13s. 4d. for admittance, and 'making a dynner for all the company and their wives,' the cobblers paying 30s. No shoemaker was to amend old shoes or boots or sell such, and no cobbler was to make new shoes. The wardens might search the houses of the company and 'vewe and serche such leather bootes shoes &c. as should be found whether they were sufficiently tanned,' &c. (fn. 88)

There seems to be no evidence of an incorporation in Elizabeth's reign of the tanners of Winchester, yet tanning, as among other things the name Tanner Street shows, was an early industry. By the usages of the city every tanner who held a board in the High Street was bound to pay 'for the stret that be for nemyth 2s.' by the year, and to the clerk 1d. in name of 'taylage.' (fn. 89) By an ordinance of October 1507 no man was to keep 'a curryinge house of lether nother curry no lether but in the houses uppon the brokes (i.e. in Tanner Street) uppon payne of 6s. 8d. of every hide.' (fn. 90)

The glovers seem to have worked in the same part of the town as the tanners, and were similarly regulated by the municipal authorities.

Although Winchester undoubtedly shared in the wine trade of Southampton, which practically ceased with the sack of the latter town in 1338, there are few indications of the importance of the trade in the city. In 1231 the bailiffs of Winchester were ordered to allow no wine tavern to exist in the city, nor wine to be sold there, but all the wine of the city was to be sent with haste to the king's army in Wales. (fn. 91)

Great care had always been taken to secure good ale, and by the usages of the city every 'brewstare' not brewing good ale of good corn was in the king's mercy under surveillance of the bailiffs, while no brewer out of the franchise might brew 'wythinne the power of the city to sale.' (fn. 92) In March 1576 the brewers were incorporated, two 'beare brewars' and four ale brewers, 'the comon brewars' of the city being formed into a company with two yearly elected wardens in order to reform the decay of the trade. The mayor and brethren reserved to themselves power to depose and put out of the company any who should not be conformable to their ordinances. No one except of the company of brewers was to brew in the city, and no innkeeper was to brew any manner of drink to be spent within the city on fine of 40s. Any of the said common brewers might sell beer at his tunning of beer or ale by the gallon and not thereby be counted a typler. Only one common brewer might dwell out of the city, but special provision was made that Thomas Puller of the soke, who 'hath of long time past continually served the city of bear aswell in time of dearth of corne as otherwise,' should be allowed to bring drink into the city on condition that he brewed only to his own use and not to the use of any other. No innkeeper or typler was to take beer 'above one galon' of any other except the common brewers, or 'to receive any ale or bere into any of there Innes or houses which shalbe brewed with the malt of any such inkeper or typler or with the wood or hops of any of them or brewed at the coste of any of them or to the comoditie of any such Inkeper or receive ale of more strength or goodness or higher price than such common brewers of the city shall sell.' The mayor was to determine any doubts which might rise in relation to the ordinance. (fn. 93)

The company of the tailors and hosiers in the city was incorporated in April 1566, the mayor (Gyles Whyte) having heard the complaints of his 'loving neighbours the Tailors and hosiers of the city' concerning those who 'at divers quick times of work and against high feasts' set up the said crafts in the city, and worked at the same 'in closets in Inns and alehouses and other secret places,' and after such times departed. The company might choose two wardens, who should yearly be sworn at the borough court; no one might set up in the craft unless he were a freeman of the merchant gild or apprentice to such; no stranger who had not been apprenticed in the city might occupy the said craft unless allowed by the wardens to be experienced and cunning in the craft; no tailor or hosier might occupy another trade except it be selling of woollen cloth only. (fn. 94)

The fishmongers of the city were strictly regulated by the customs of the city, according to which each man having 'a board that the fish lie on' was to pay a farthing a day to the king's ferm, and every fishmonger out of the franchise that held a stall was bound to pay to the king of custom 15d. yearly. In the same year 'for the avoiding of great disorders from the standing of the salt fish mongers at the High Cross,' it was made lawful for every fisher to stand at his own door or at an appointed stall.

Stranger butchers coming into the city of Winchester were in the 15th century ordered to stand in the places assigned to them and not in divers places and were ordered to bring with them the hide and tallow of every beast killed outside the city. (fn. 95) Thus the times when both butchers of the city and stranger butchers should kill were regulated by ordinance. 'At such tyme that thei may sell the same and werke always in the Saturday all day longe and the Sondaye followinge untill eight of the clocke of the same Sondaye and no longer,' at which hour they should 'incontynently put awaye from the stalles of there shopp the flesh and hange it in.' (fn. 96) Further the bailiffs of the city were ordered to have and receive 9s. 4d. tarrage from 'the newe bochars shambles next to St. Morys Church.' The assessment for this tarrage was 1d. for every butcher occupying one stall. No butcher of the city 'though he wolde geve never so muche' should occupy 'any of the new stalles,' but only stranger butchers 'dwelling full one or two myles out of the cytie and the soke.' (fn. 97)


  • 1. Cal. Chart. R. iii, 351 et seq. For interesting contemporary evidence as to interference with travellers to St. Giles Fair during the Civil War of Stephen's reign see Engl. Hist. Rev. xxv, 297 et seq.
  • 2. Before the death of Archbishop Theobald.
  • 3. In 1317 Edward II gave a permanent extension to twenty-four days, but even then it is probable that the usurpation of municipal authority by the bishop was not tolerated for longer than sixteen days. The charter of Edward III recognizes sixteen days as the normal period, though the actual business of buying and selling within the fair was certainly extended to twenty-four days on several occasions afterwards (cf. Kitchin, Winchester Cathedral Rec. No. 2 Chart. of Edw. III, 40 et seq.).
  • 4. Turner, Domestic Architecture, i, App. 275.
  • 5. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 57.
  • 6. Hunter, op. cit. 5.
  • 7. Pipe R. 25 Hen. III, m. 3; 27 Hen. III, m. 5.
  • 8. Pat. 4 Hen. III, m. 3.
  • 9. Cf. Gross, Select Cases on the Law Merchant (Selden Soc.), xxiii.
  • 10. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 23, no.159286.
  • 11. Ibid. bdle. 28, no. 159320–22 (Bp. J. de Pontoise).
  • 12. Sharpe, Cal. Letter Bks. E, 284.
  • 13. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 35, no. 159355.
  • 14. Cf. Close, 14 John, m. 5; Pat. 17 Hen. III, m. 2.
  • 15. It is true that in 1290 the 'Seldagium Eboraci' brought in 38s., but the 'Seldagium Lyncolnie' only produced 6s. 8d. Six years later the York quarters were let at 40s. (probably 20 'fenestrae'), but no Lincoln merchants appeared. With the 14th century the north countrymen ceased to come.
  • 16. See Close, 15 Hen. III, m. 5, but the Gloucester product may have included iron from the Forest of Dean.
  • 17. Cf. Pipe R. 25 Hen. II (Pipe R. Soc.), 91. The West countrymen are usually called 'Cornish' in the accounts of the fair, but, as we might expect, Devonshire men were included (cf. Egerton MS. 2418, 59d. et seq.).
  • 18. We know that lead was on sale at the fair. The Mendip production was quite slight at this time and used locally. It is probable that Peak lead, which was of a superior quality, may have been sent to Winchester, and in the reign of Edward I there was a considerable output from the Devon mines.
  • 19. Cf. Pat. 35 Hen. III, m. 2.
  • 20. Close, 8 Hen. III, m. 5, 5 d.; Pat. 34 Hen. III, m. 8, and cf. from a deed already cited 'Vico ubi mercatores Ispanie et Prouancie tempore nundinarum sua vendunt mercimonia.'
  • 21. The 'men of the land of the Count of Toulouse' are mentioned in 1224 (Close, 8 Hen. III, m. 5).
  • 22. Kitchin, Chart. of Edw. III, 34. These traders were probably from Dinant, near Namur.
  • 23. Here, no doubt, as Dr. Kitchin has suggested, the monks of St. Swithun might pick up their queer pets.
  • 24. Cf. Egerton MS. 2418, fol. 59a; Kitchin, Chart. of Edw. III, passim. These accounts, though of the 14th century, embody practices which were to a large extent carried out in the previous centuries.
  • 25. According to Egerton MS. 2418, fol. 59 d., which, however, gives a form of proclamation for twenty-four days.
  • 26. The Abbess of St. Mary's, however, had a share of the tolls here.
  • 27. One place was 'encuntre leglise Seynt Johan.'
  • 28. When the fair lasted only sixteen days probably these preliminary arrangements were rapidly carried through, but spread over two or three days or more when the period was twenty-four days (cf. Egerton MS. 2418, ut supra).
  • 29. Sometimes an actual mayor was appointed by the bishop or the bailiffs replaced by his officers. Whatever the actual measures, the self-government of the city was extinguished for the time.
  • 30. The craftsmen and traders of Winchester were transferred to the fair in many cases, or forced to cease work.
  • 31. Pat. 35 Hen. III, m. 2.
  • 32. Cal. Chart. R. i, 445 (A.D. 1254).
  • 33. Cf. Pat. 25 Hen. III, m. 12. Stamford was also in the first rank at least as a cloth fair (cf. Gross, Select Cases on the Law Merchant [Selden Soc.], xxxiii, no. 6).
  • 34. a See under 'Political History.'
  • 35. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 27, no. 159310 (7 John de Pontoise).
  • 36. Ibid. 23, no. 159286 (11 John de Pontoise).
  • 37. Nearly all the religious houses of Winchester except those of the Mendicant orders seem to have possessed property at the fair, some of which was let to foreign traders. Dureford Abbey in Sussex had also several shops at one time.
  • 38. Cf. Close, 15 Hen. III, m. 5. In 1223, after the king's tailor had bought cloth at St. Giles' fair, the bailiffs of Winchester were ordered to provide a good and strong cart with three horses to carry it to London.
  • 39. Ibid. 17 Hen. III, m. 5, 8.
  • 40. Kitchin, Chart. of Edw. III, 17.
  • 41. The bishop recovered this money in 1293 as the result of a petition to the king at the Easter Parliament of that year, but was bidden to limit the fair to sixteen days.
  • 42. Matthew of Paris' stories of the robbers of this district are well known. More than a hundred years later the author of Piers Plowman describes the merchant wending his way 'as to Wynchestre fayre' dreading that 'he in derke mete with robbours and reuers' (C. Passus, xiv, 52 et seq.).
  • 43. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 29, no. 159326 (8 Henry Woodlock).
  • 44. Ibid. 35, no. 159355.
  • 45. The Cornish and Devonshire men then occupied the places formerly used by the French. They had done this as early as the reign of Edward II at least, and on the account of 7 John de Stratford (1329) we read 'seldagium Francorum ubi modo sunt Cornubienses vidz. pro 28 fenestris £4 4s.' (ibid. 32, no. 159342). Before the French gave up attendance the Cornish may have had their place mainly at the 'Righol' or 'Le Ryole,' which. however, itself doubtless obtained the name originally from its association with Gascon wine merchants.
  • 46. Pat. 18 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 20 d.
  • 47. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 35, no. 159358.
  • 48. Although the plague had first appeared in Dorset about August 1348, Cornwall suffered worst in the spring and summer preceding the fair.
  • 49. Ibid. 36, no. 159363.
  • 50. Ibid. 38, no. 159372.
  • 51. a The word terragium most commonly denotes the ground rent, but occasionally it may possibly be used for the actual market-stand for which the due was paid.
  • 52. A rent roll of 1294 mentions among the property of this foundation, besides the shops of the Douay and Ypres merchants, 'two shops in the Goldsmithery, one shop near the mercery, one shop in the Peltery, one shop where garlic is sold, another where wool is sold, another where ale is sold, another where hemp is sold, another where old cloths are sold, another in the saddlery, a shop in the cutlery, three shops where fish is sold, and a place where old clothes are sold.' For this list, which is among the Winton Corp. Doc., the writer is indebted to Miss A. A. Locke.
  • 53. The expenses of the Wolvesey hospicium for twenty-four days reached £16 13s.
  • 54. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 42, no. 159365 (22 William of Wykeham).
  • 55. Ibid. 48, no. 159421.
  • 56. Says 'Avarice' in Piers Plowman, Wickedliche to weye was my furst lesson To Wy and to Winchestre ich wente to the faire With many mener marchandises as my maister heghte Ne hadde the grace of gyle gon among my ware Hit hadde ben unsold seven yer so God me helpe! (C. Passus, vii, 210 et seq.)
  • 57. Town Charters (Winton Corp. Doc.), Drawer 6, no. 21.
  • 58. Eccl. Com. Var. bdle. 5, no. 153846 (1 Bishop Courtney, 2 & 3 Hen. VII).
  • 59. Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 245, no. 86 and bdle. 278, no. 72 et seq.
  • 60. Town Charters (Winton Corp. Doc.), Drawer 6, no. 20; Chart. R. 27–39 Hen. VI, no. 36.
  • 61. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ii (2) 4315, p. 1333.
  • 62. L. and P. Hen. VIII, x, 67, p. 24.
  • 63. Ibid. xi, 252.
  • 64. Town Charters (Winton Corp. Doc.), Drawer 10, no. 40.
  • 65. a As Mr. Round points out the city market is mentioned in the charter of Henry II.
  • 66. Ibid. Drawer 6, no. 20.
  • 67. Ibid. Drawer 10, no. 40.
  • 68. Parl. Rep. 1835 (4), xxiv.
  • 69. See Winton Corp. Doc., Roll of Fraternity of St. John the Baptist, temp. Ric. II, Hen. IV, Hen. V.
  • 70. Ibid.; First Bk. of Ordinances, sub anno.
  • 71. A tenement in Winchester called 'le Wollseld,' often mentioned in the city documents at a much earlier date, was in ruin by 1359 (Cal. Close, 1354–60, p. 572).
  • 72. Pipe R. 12 Hen. II (Pipe R. Soc.), 105.
  • 73. See further under 'Industries.'
  • 74. Add. MS. 14252, fol. III, printed in Beverley Town Doc. (Selden Soc.), 134.
  • 75. Custumals of the city of Winchester (Town Charters [Winton Corp. Doc.], Drawer 6, no. 24). See further under 'Industries.'
  • 76. Stat. of Realm, i, 332.
  • 77. Chamberlains' Accts. (Winton Corp. Doc.), 27 Edw. III.
  • 78. Lansd. MS. 321, fol. 1–3. The number of householders 'that ben fallen' was 997, 'and without these ben fallen withynne the same citee sethe the last Parliament holden there eighty households and one. In Jewry Street, where there had been 80 householders, there were only 2; in Fleshmonger Street, where there had been 140, there were only 2; in Fishmonger Street, where there had been 60, there were only 4; in Colebrook Street, 16 instead of 160; in Calpe Street, 6 instead of 100; in Gold Street, 8 instead of 140; in Burden Street, none instead of 60; in Shulworth Street, 4 instead of 70; in Buck Street, 2 instead of 40; in Minster Street, 4 instead of 90; in Gar Street, none instead of 100.'
  • 79. Stowe MS. 846, fol. 180b.
  • 80. Proc. in Boromote (Winton Corp. Doc.), sub anno, fol. 34.
  • 81. First Bk. of Ordinances (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 135b.
  • 82. Ibid. fol. 168.
  • 83. Ibid. fol. 182b.
  • 84. For an account of their earlier organization and for a fuller account of the wool industry in general see under 'Industries.'
  • 85. Second Ledger Bk. (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 218b. et seq.
  • 86. Custumals of City of Winchester (Town Charters [Winton Corp. Doc.], no. 24 and 25, Art. 47 and 51); see also Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vi, App. 602–3 and Arch. Journ. ix, 71–3.
  • 87. Proc. in Boromote, sub anno, fol. 118b.
  • 88. First Bk. of Ordinances (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 205b et seq.
  • 89. Ibid.; Town Charters (Winton Corp. Doc.), no. 24 and 25, Art. 49; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vi, App. 602–3.
  • 90. First Bk. of Ordinances (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 12.
  • 91. Cal. Close, 1227–31, p. 596.
  • 92. Custumals of City of Winchester (Town Charters [Winton Corp. Doc.], Drawer 6, no. 24, 25, Art. 31). In 1566 the number of typlers and innkeepers was reduced to eighteen within the five aldermanries. Henceforth there were to be two within that of Colebrook Street, one in Tanner Street, one in Gold Street, one in Northgate, thirteen in the High Street. None of the already admitted typlers were to be dismissed, but as they died or broke the laws so the numbers should be diminished (ibid. fol. 78b and 79).
  • 93. First Bk. of Ordinances (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 189.
  • 94. Ibid. fol. 143b.
  • 95. First Bk. of Ordinances (Winton Corp. Doc.), fol. 1.
  • 96. Ibid. fol. 9.
  • 97. Ibid. fol. 9b.