The City of Chichester: Trades, industries, markets and fairs

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.

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'The City of Chichester: Trades, industries, markets and fairs', A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935), pp. 97-98. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

. "The City of Chichester: Trades, industries, markets and fairs", in A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935) 97-98. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

. "The City of Chichester: Trades, industries, markets and fairs", A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 3, (London, 1935). 97-98. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

In this section


The most valuable and complete evidence of economic conditions within the city in the 17th century lies in the series of indentures, (fn. 1) etc., concerning various TRADES AND INDUSTRIES. The earliest of these is the incorporation of the Cappers in 1564; there are others for the Blacksmiths and Cutlers, 1609; the Gild of the Mercers, 1622; the Joiners' Gild, 1600; the Barbers' and Surgeons' and Glasiers' Gilds, 1608; the Clothiers' Gild, 1616; the Sadlers' Gild, 1633; the Blacksmiths' and Cutlers' Gild, 1662; the Glovers' Gild and White Tawers' Gild, 1687; the Sadlers', Rope Makers', Stationers' and Bookbinders' Gilds, 1686; the Goldsmiths', Cutlers' and Blacksmiths' Gilds, 1686; the Free Tailors' Gild, 1685; the Barbers' and Glasiers' Gild, 1685; and the Gild of Mercers, 1698.

The formation of the Company of the Cappers, who had complained of encroachments by the Mercers, was granted by Thomas Adams, mayor, who ordained that the company should have power to elect or remove its own wardens and masters, and to make orders for preserving the wealth and good order of the company; election to the freedom of the gild required the consent of the mayor. The mercers were to be permitted to sell off, within the next twelve months, all such wares as they had in their shops and houses, unless the cappers should buy up such stores. Half of all the fines and fees of the company were to go to the corporation of the city. If the company should not furnish enough wares for persons accustomed to come there, the mayor should revise the gild's liberties. On the election of each new mayor, the gild was to pay 10s. to the steward of the city, for the use of the corporation.

The Blacksmiths and Cutlers in 1609(?) complained that certain persons not belonging to the city were selling there all manner of ironware and knives on market days. Hence some nine blacksmiths and two cutlers, being free of the gild, were to be known as the Master, Wardens, Company and Fellowship. No non-members might sell iron or cutlery save on the usual fair days of St. George and Whit Monday. A fee of £6 admitted to the gild, with a good and sufficient breakfast to the Master, Wardens, and others; £3 of the £6 was paid to the mayor. Apprentices, however, who had served seven years were to be admitted for 3s. 4d. Ten shillings and a couple of well-fed capons were due to the mayor yearly, and all disorderly quarrels not appeasable by the company were to be brought before the mayor.

The Gild of Mercers, incorporated in 1622, has already been referred to. None of the other gilds gave so much detail in their indentures, but a few points are noticeable. The Joiners said they were being invaded by both married and single men under thirty who were not of the gild; they fixed a fee of £6 for strangers, and 3s. 4d. for apprentices. The Tailors found it necessary to make special provision that no alien born out of the king's dominions, being by craft a tailor, should be admitted save after an agreement with the master and wardens, and a corporal oath before the mayor. Any non-citizen must pay £5 to the company and £5 to the mayor. The Tailors agreed to provide part of the equipment of the city company of the Militia, as anciently they used, just as the Blacksmiths and Cutlers were bound to supply arms, weapons, and artillery for His Majesty. There were apparently 20 Merchant Tailors. The Barbers, Surgeons and Glaziers together numbered only seven persons; the Clothiers included cloth workers, dyers and fustian makers; the Mercers by 1698 consisted of only four persons. (fn. 2) It is perhaps not unsafe to connect this exclusive policy with the undoubted fact that Chichester tradesmen of the 18th century formed a small aristocratic society and were closely connected with the professional, artistic or military groups, as is seen very clearly in the life of William Collins, the poet.

Although there is a fair amount of information about the 17th-century city companies, it is surprising that there is no medieval evidence as to craft gilds. Most of the ordinary crafts are mentioned, together with some of the luxury or ecclesiastical crafts, but there is no hint of their organisation into gilds, except that the Tailors' Gild (gilda parmenterie) paid 2s. to the Earl of Cornwall in 1299. (fn. 3) This is probably because there were few members of each craft. The main business of the city was overseas trade, for which the Gild Merchant sufficed. In the 14th and early 15th centuries evidently some of the more prosperous citizens had also lands and tenements in London and were members of some of the great London gilds. The financing of the wool trade with the staple at Calais was probably facilitated by this fact. (fn. 4)

The principal medieval craft was needlemaking, which lasted almost into the 19th century. The industry began in the 13th century, if we may trust the evidence of names (le Nedeler and le Aguiller), (fn. 5) but decayed after the destruction of the suburb of St. Pancras during the siege of 1642. The last needlemaker, who was working in 1783, was Mr. Scale, the parish clerk. (fn. 6) There were weavers, dyers, tailors and all the usual crafts, but only one or two examples of each. Thomas Dubeletmaker was a godson of William Neel in 1418. (fn. 7)


The MARKETS and FAIRS of Chichester were evidently of great importance to the surrounding district. The market from the 12th century, (fn. 8) and probably much earlier, was held on Wednesdays and Saturdays and belonged to the Earls of Cornwall (fn. 9) and earlier overlords, probably until the grant of the city to the citizens in 1316, when it passed to them. Wednesday was for the cattle market held in East and North Street. Friday was added as a market day by the charter of James II. (fn. 10) Some tenants of the bishop owed the service of making booths in Chichester market. (fn. 11)

The earliest record we have of a fair at Chichester was that granted by Henry I about 1107–8 to Ralph Bishop of Chichester, to be held for eight days at the time to be fixed by the bishop. The feast selected was that of St. Faith the Virgin (6 October), but in 1204 licence was given to change the time to the vigil of the feast of the Holy Trinity and eight days after. (fn. 12) This fair was known as the Sloe Fair from a sloe tree in the field near the North Gate, where it was held. It is doubtful, however, whether the time of the fair was changed, as the pie-powder court (curia papilionis) for it is said to have been held as late as the 18th century in the upper room of the Canon Gate, from the vigil of St. Faith (5 October) to the eve of St. Edward the Confessor (12 October). (fn. 13) Bishop Robert Rede complained that on Monday before St. Denis, 1407, Thomas Pacchyng, the mayor, ordered that no man of the city should sue any plea in the bishop's court of 'pypoudrez'; so that only two persons pleaded, one of whom the mayor imprisoned. (fn. 14)

The bishop's gavelmen of Cakeham (fn. 15) were bound to 'cart or pack' every day to Chichester if required and to cart straw to Chichester Fair. Packing to Chichester might be required even on Sundays. There were special sheds (logias) in Chichester for the straw brought in for the fair. (fn. 16) The fair at Selsey which Henry I granted to Bishop Seffrid between 1126 and 1133 to be held on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Lawrence the Martyr (9, 10, 11 August) was apparently transferred to Chichester at a later date. (fn. 17) In 1254 a fair was granted to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to be held on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Michael, the fair being publicly proclaimed by the sheriff. (fn. 18) In 1288, however, Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, claimed two fairs in the city. (fn. 19) The Michaelmas fair held in the eastern suburb was stated by Richard FitzAlan to be no fair, but merely a congregation of men held each year outside the suburb in a spot within the Hundred of Box, and he claimed the profits by reason of his hundred. It was counterclaimed that the fines and amercements had been in the seisin of Richard, King of the Romans and Earl of Cornwall, and that Richard FitzAlan could only have claimed such tolls and dues 'per presentationes factas in pleno hundredo,' whereas neither he nor his ancestors had ever held such a hundred. (fn. 20) The same Richard FitzAlan claimed, however, that he held a fair on the vigil and feast of St. James (24–5 July) every year, near the Hospital of St. James outside the city. (fn. 21) This fair was claimed by Edward I in 1289, who commanded the sheriff to proclaim it in his name. (fn. 22) In 1500 the mayor was given permission to hold a fair yearly on St. George's Day (23 April) and the two following days and to hold a court of piepowder. (fn. 23) The fairs at Chichester in 1889 (fn. 24) are reported to have been as many as five or six, which took place on 4 May, Whit Monday, 5 August, 10 October, and 20 October. Evidently slight adaptations of dates had taken place for the three most ancient fairs. The Corn Market was said to belong to a private company, and farmers and merchants subscribed so much a year for using it.


  • 1. City archives; cf. Ballard, op. cit. 89. These documents do not appear to have been used or quoted by other historians.
  • 2. Tradesmen's tokens have been found in Chichester for at least 24 tradesmen of the 17th century (S.A.C. xxiv, 122– 134).
  • 3. a Chan. Inq. p.m. file 95.
  • 4. Cf. p. 94 above. This is also true in the early 16th century; cf. Hist. of Bowyer Family.
  • 5. Liberate R. ii, p. 164; V.C.H. Suss. ii, 229.
  • 6. Cf. S.A.C. xxx, 149; Hay, op. cit. 366; T. G. Willis, Rec. of Chich. p. 73.
  • 7. a Reg. Archbp. Chicheley, i, fols. 316, 319.
  • 8. Cath. Doc. Lib. Y, fol. xxviii.
  • 9. Assize R. no. 923, m. 27.
  • 10. Hay, op. cit. 593.
  • 11. a Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxi, 15, 20.
  • 12. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 135b; Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. (Var. Coll.), i, 181. From the 14th century the fair was held on the feast of St. Denis (9 Oct.) and allowing for the change of style is still so held. W. D. P.
  • 13. S.A.C. lvi, 97–8. The records of this court mentioned by Mr. Ian Hannah are now in the Cathedral Library. It is probably the same court as is designated in a compotus of 1572. 'Perquisites of the Strete, drawn out of the court kept at Canon Gate, 10s. 11d.'; ex inf. Preb. Bennett.
  • 14. a Early Chanc. Proc. 16, no. 20.
  • 15. Suss. Rec. Soc. xxxi, 3.
  • 16. This use of the word logia(s) is interesting, as it almost certainly translates the Sussex 'lodge' which is used for almost any kind of farm building.
  • 17. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. loc. cit.; Cath. Doc. Lib. B, fol. ix.
  • 18. Cal. Close R. 1253–4, p. 28.
  • 19. Assize R. 923, m. 27. It seems probable that a fair to take place only a week before the ancient fair of the Bishop (Sloe Fair) must have caused jealousy and confusion and did not develop in the normal manner.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid. 926, m. 25.
  • 22. Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), i, 61.
  • 23. Cal. Pat. R. 1494–1509, p. 205; cf. Charter of 15 Henry VII (Town Clerk's Schedule).
  • 24. Royal Com. on Market Rights and Tolls, vol. i (1889); Hay (op. cit. 392) in 1804 states that there were 5 fairs, viz. :— on St. George's Day, Whit Monday, St. James's Day, Michaelmas Old Style, and Sloe Fair.