A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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MARKETS AND FAIRS
The existence of a market in Wilton probably dates from the Anglo-Saxon period, for conditions of local trade, as shewn above, were exceptionally favourable. (fn. 1) The right to hold markets weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was granted to the borough at least as early as the reign of Henry III, for Edward I spoke of a charter of his ancestors to this effect. (fn. 2) In 1288–9 the lord of the borough claimed the market rights of the Wednesday market only, (fn. 3) but on his death in 1300 it appears that he was entitled to the tolls of all three markets. (fn. 4) The profits then consisted of toll, and stallage, tangabulum, flesgabulum, and stocgabulum, with special tolls on corn and salt. The income derived from these in four undated years at the end of the 13th century varied between £1 9s. 10d. and £2 11s. (fn. 5) In 1293–4 it came to £1 9s. (fn. 6)
A conflict over market rights between Wilton and New Salisbury had begun at least by 1240 when it was alleged that markets were held in Salisbury every day of the week, instead of only on Tuesdays as allowed by the bishop's charter. (fn. 7) Both sides resorted to violent and illegal means, for while, in 1274, the men of Salisbury complained that for the past five years the bailiffs and other men of Wilton had been waylaying merchants going to Salisbury and forcing them to trade in the Wilton market, the Wilton men, on the other hand, complained that the men of Salisbury had taken the initiative in the struggle by extending their one market day to many days of the week, to the detriment of Wilton, Old Salisbury, and other neighbouring market towns. (fn. 8) When in 1300 the borough reverted to the Crown and was granted to the Princess Mary, (fn. 9) the market tolls were of particular interest to the king; in 1305, therefore, the king recapitulated the charter rights of Wilton, drew attention to the attraction of merchants from the Wilton markets to those of Salisbury, and ordered the sheriff to make public proclamation in Wilton, Salisbury, and other market towns forbidding merchants under pain of forfeiture to sell merchandise in Salisbury on Wilton market days. Clearly this prohibition was disregarded, for the bailiffs of Wilton gave information that 10 butchers, 18 fishmongers, 7 cloth merchants, 5 merchants dealing in wax and other merchandise, 6 skinners, 5 sellers of hides, 4 men dealing in oxen and other animals, 6 ironmongers, and 31 grain dealers, all of whom they named, and all of whom were of the liberty of the Bishop of Salisbury, had marketed their goods in Salisbury on the prohibited days. (fn. 10) The dispute continued throughout 1306 and 1307, (fn. 11) and Edward II, doubtless acting on behalf of Gaveston, then lord of the borough, made another proclamation to the same effect at the beginning of his reign. At Easter 1309 many of the merchants were attached to answer the king on charge of contempt, and of depriving the king of the tolls and customs of Wilton market; damages for the high sum of £10,000 were claimed. On this occasion the Salisbury men claimed that they had only held markets on Tuesdays, but they also recalled that they enjoyed the same liberties as the citizens of Winchester, and therefore had the right to put up stalls and display goods in shops and windows. But the king maintained his claim that Wilton had been unjustly impoverished. (fn. 12) Such royal protection, however, was without avail, for the growth of Salisbury inevitably attracted the merchants away from Wilton whether the markets were held on the same day or not; the number and variety of these merchants, who acted in contempt of the king and went to the Salisbury market, indicate not only the decline of Wilton, but also how important the Wilton markets must have been before the competition of Salisbury was felt. (fn. 13)
The decay of Wilton markets continued so that by the 15th century the stalls in the market place had fallen into total decay, (fn. 14) and it is unlikely that the full right of three weekly markets was exercised; indeed it may have lapsed altogether for the time being, for in 1496 Henry VII made a fresh grant of a market, this time only for Wednesday of each week. (fn. 15) In 1825 the Friday market had been long disused, and the Wednesday one was 'little better than nominal'. (fn. 16) By 1888 markets were no longer held in Wilton. (fn. 17)
The rights of the earliest of the Wilton fairs belonged to the Abbess of Wilton although the lord of the borough had certain rights in them. In 1300 the lord's share of toll was only assessed at 6d. a year. (fn. 18) The date of the original grant of the fair is not known, but it was certainly in existence in 1212, for it was prolonged that year by eight days. (fn. 19) In 1288–9 the abbess claimed the fair as her own, and it was said to last from 14 until 21 September; (fn. 20) in 1300, however, it was stated that the fair lasted from the ninth hour of St. Matthew's Eve until the ninth hour of St. Matthew's Day (21 Sept.) only. (fn. 21) The abbess held her own court of piepowder. (fn. 22) At the end of the 13th century the lord of the manor was receiving amounts ranging from 7d. to 12d. from the abbess's fair. (fn. 23)
In 1414 Henry V granted the mayor and burgesses a fair of their own to be held yearly on 21 and 22 July, (fn. 24) but the period of time proved too short to attract the people of the neighbourhood, and in 1415 the first charter was revoked and a second charter extended the period of the fair from 19 to 22 July. (fn. 25) The mayor and burgesses held their own court of piepowder, and received all the profits of their fair. In 1433 Henry VI granted the right of holding two sheep fairs in May and September respectively. (fn. 26) In 1496 a charter of Henry VII granted two different annual times for fairs, one on St. George's and the three following days (23–26 April), and the other on St. Giles's, and the three following days (1–3 September). (fn. 27) From the number and variety of these 15th-century grants it appears that the first attempts to establish a successful fair in Wilton had failed.
The serious decline in the prosperity of Wilton, which became very marked again in the 17th century, above all in the clothing trade, caused the mayor and burgesses to petition for a further grant of a fair with piepowder court and sole right of profits; as a result of the good offices of Sir John Birkenhead, M.P. for Wilton, (fn. 28) two yearly fair days on 25 July and 2 November were granted by Charles II in 1666. (fn. 29) In 1693 the fairs of St. George and St. Giles, and the yearly market in Wilton were leased for 21 years at a rent of £2 a year and on payment of a £35 fine; the lease was renewable every seven years on payment of a £15 fine. (fn. 30)
There is no evidence that any of the earlier fairs was officially superseded by later grants of different fair days. The original fair of the abbess held on St. Matthew's day apparently vanished at the time of the Dissolution, for it was not granted with the rest of the abbey possessions to Sir William Herbert. Eighteenth-century references to Wilton fairs reveal some considerable confusion; in 1730 the April, September, and November fairs alone were mentioned, (fn. 31) but in 1731 four fairs, in April, July, October, and November were attributed to Wilton. (fn. 32) In 1751 the same four fairs were listed, with the addition of the September St. Giles's fair, (fn. 33) and in 1791 the fair days were said to fall on 4 May, 12 September, and 13 November; (fn. 34) in the early 19th century, however, the chief fair days were the cattle and sheep fair of 5 May, and the big sheep fair of 12 September. (fn. 35) Some of this confusion may have arisen from the fact that the days on which the sheep fairs were held were altered. In 1666 the sheep fairs were held on St. George's Day in April, and St. Giles's Day in September, and in this year the mayor and burgesses leased the profits of these fairs to a Wilton clothier for life at a yearly rent of 40s. (fn. 36) But the fair accounts of 1756 and 1760, about a hundred years later, show that by then the sheep fairs were being held on 4 May and 12 September. (fn. 37) The evident prosperity of the Wilton sheep fairs in the 19th century is shown by the fact that in 1833 the tolls of the May and September fairs were rented for £140, and it was reckoned that some 40,000 sheep passed through the fairs. (fn. 38)
In 1888 the May and September cattle and sheep fairs were apparently the only fairs held in Wilton. (fn. 39) By the beginning of the 20th century the number of sheep penned at the September fair had dropped from about 100,000 to about 50,000. (fn. 40) In 1960 both these fairs were still held annually, and in recent years the number of sheep at the September fair has increased slightly. (fn. 41) Since 1938 another sheep fair has been held annually early in October, and another, formerly held annually early in August at Britford, has been moved to Wilton. (fn. 42)
In 1775 the sheep fairs were removed to Fugglestone and in July and August of that year advertisements of the change were made in the Evening Post and in Reading, Sherborne, Bath, Oxford and Salisbury newspapers. (fn. 43) The fair field, situated in Fugglestone (fn. 44) on the north side of the Salisbury-Warminster road, occupied about 12½ acres, but in 1847 the railway cut off about 4¼ acres, and so the ground was replanned to take in a new field thus increasing the whole ground to about 16 acres.
Wilton and the suburban townships all lay along the rivers, surrounded by their meadows and common marshes; away from the flooding area lay the open arable fields; finally, the sheep downs rose up from the valleys. The surrounding parishes generally included all that was needed for their subsistence and prosperity in arable, meadow, and sheep pasture, while at the centre the old market town traded the produce of the countryside and to some extent absorbed labour from the suburbs to serve its own industries. There was thus a close economic connexion between the two.
It is not known whether the borough ever possessed common fields as distinct from those of the suburban manors: by the late 13th century, when evidence first becomes available, it appears that the burgesses owned strips in the common fields of Bulbridge, Fugglestone, and other suburban manors, but there was no mention of the common fields of the borough itself. Thus the Isembard family, who were the chief corn mill owners of Wilton, (fn. 45) had portions of the open fields of Fugglestone and strips attached to their mill at South Newton; while John Goldrun, burgess and goldsmith, and John and Adam Walerand, burgesses, all owned land in the common fields of Fugglestone. (fn. 46)
The rich meadow lands were of immense importance both within the borough and in the suburban manors. There was much meadow land on the outskirts of the borough itself, some of it owned from time immemorial by the Guild Merchant. Most of the land called 'Between Bridges', off East (now North) Street, was meadow land until recent years, and there the guild owned Hulotesham meadow near Berkshire Bridge, while in the neighbourhood of the old Ystreet the guild owned an ancient meadow called Busmersford, and also Gallowmead beyond Minster Street near the old Walbourne bridge. (fn. 47)
The two suburban manors within the parish in the 16th century, Bulbridge and Washern, contained open fields known as Bulbridge and Washern, or Ugford, fields; they were subdivided under the three field system into East, Middle, and West fields. (fn. 48) The manor of Ditchampton, of which part only lay in Wilton parish, contained in 1567 an open field divided into a North, South, and Middle field. (fn. 49) There were two great periods of inclosure: the first when much of the abbey property which had passed to Sir William Herbert was inclosed within Wilton Park in the mid-16th century, and the second when the private Inclosure Act of 1825 was passed, although its award was delayed until 1860. Much of the manor of Washern was inclosed within the Park or converted into the Hare Warren in the first period, but inclosure within Bulbridge manor was only partial and was not complete until the 19th century inclosure award. (fn. 50)
In 1567 large portions of the Washern fields were in demesne, representing no doubt the former abbey holdings: (fn. 51) in the East field, the earl held 180 a. in demesne, and in the West field 140 a. His holdings in the Bulbridge open field were, on the other hand, small, amounting to not more than 22 a. scattered throughout that part of the field called Akerman's land, and formerly possessed by the abbey. A survey made in 1631–2 showed, however, a considerable increase in the number of small individual inclosures both inside and outside the boundaries of the Park. Great Netheways, consisting of about 9 a. of arable and pasture, had been inclosed; Netherhampton Croft, consisting of some 13½ a. within the Park, was also inclosed; several inclosures had been made in the West field of Bulbridge, one of about 12½ a. called Earthpitt Croft, another of about 8 a. called Hall's Croft, and another of about 6 a. Whitebread Acre, of about 4 a., Symes Croft, about 3½ a., and Phillips Croft of 11 a., had also all been inclosed. An area of 13 a. had been inclosed in Washern field, and another plot of unspecified size in the East field of Bulbridge and Washern.
Those holdings which still remained scattered and dispersed in the Park and in the open fields were finally exchanged for compact blocks of land in 1860. In exchange for freehold estates within the borough Lord Pembroke received allotments consisting of 208 a. of the old inclosed Deer Park, some 439 a. south of Burcombe Lane, and more land adjoining the north-east of the Deer Park. In exchange for 8 a. of arable freehold scattered in Bulbridge common field the hospital of St. Giles received an allotment south of Burcombe Lane. The glebe lands were also consolidated. (fn. 52)
The same system of scattered holdings prevailed in the common meadows, and meadow rights were appendant to the arable holdings. Much of the meadow land at the Bulbridge end of South Street in Bulbridge and Washern was owned by the abbey, whence it passed to Sir William Herbert. Between the angle made by the Nadder and the south side of South Street was a holding known as the 'Waleland' adjoining Lovell's Mead in Washern Street. On the north side of South Street the rack-mead and millham of Isembard's mill extended to the Nadder. Three meadows adjoined the site of the abbey, 'Childern Abbe', 'Hanghammede' and 'Marketmede', (fn. 53) where most probably the abbess held her fair. In Little Marsh the abbey held Sexton's Mead and another meadow was held between Walbourne bridge and Quidhampton Marsh. The abbey also had much meadow land in Washern Marsh and South Ugford. (fn. 54) The 16th-century manor of Ditchampton contained some 300 a. of meadow land, (fn. 55) but the names of the meadows were not specified in the surviving surveys.
The survey of 1567 recorded the acreage and value of the meadow land in demesne in Washern, Bulbridge, and South Ugford. Broadmead contained 19 a. and there the earl had exclusive rights from 25 March to 1 August, after which date it was open to those who had common rights in Washern Marsh. In Pikedmead, consisting of 2 a., the earl had exclusive rights throughout the year. Dewes Mead, comprising 6 a., Washingmead, Culverhay, Tennepence Acre, Huntham, East Netheways and Wodmyllmead were all inclosed within the Park, but Tuttesham remained outside the Park. Washingmead adjoined the vicarage of Bulbridge, which had also been inclosed within the Park. The lord of the manor's dovehouse, stables, and grange were situated in Culverhay; Tennepence Acre lay by the Nadder and contained 4 a.; Huntham contained 10 a.; East Netheways, nearby, contained 13 a.; and Wodmyllmead, lying to the south of the Nadder, contained 20 a. (fn. 56)
By the 17th century some further inclosure of meadow land had taken place, and many of the meadows of the demesne lands of Bulbridge, Washern, and South Ugford had been leased out: 10 a. of Broadmead, the whole of the Pikedmead, 9 a. of Rodman's Mead, 3 a. of the Great Mead of Bulbridge, and the 6 a. of Dewes Mead were all leased to tenants by indenture. In Bulbridge the 10-acre Fulford's Mead, where the Prior of St. John's had the share of 1a., the Inmead, and 2½ a. meadow lately inclosed out of Ugford Mead, were leased to other tenants; there were a number of inclosed meadow crofts within the Park; and the 1631–2 survey mentioned four crofts next to Netherhampton Walk, the Huntham, Picked Corner, John Smythe's Mead and Mr. Phillip's Mead. (fn. 57)
The common lands of Wilton and the suburban townships lay in the great marshes, which stretched on either side of the borough between the rivers, and to the north and south of them. The Great Marsh of the abbey, also known as Pig Marsh, was eventually inclosed in Wilton Park. (fn. 58) The Little Marsh was situated in the area now known as the Island, while Great Marsh extended between the Nadder and Wylye to join Quidhampton Marsh at its eastern end; Washern Marsh lay in South Ugford, (fn. 59) Bulbridge. Marsh lay south of the Nadder, and Burdens Ball Marsh lay north of the Wylye in Fugglestone. Great Marsh and Little Marsh were by no means entirely uncultivated and both contained tenements and inclosed meadows.
In c. 1547 common rights were also held in the sheep downs and pastures. The manor of Ditchampton contained 2,000 a. of pasture land and 300 a. of heath. (fn. 60) These lands were leased to tenants and served the needs of a community at once agricultural and pastoral. In 1331, for example, Robert of Woodford of Wilton, who owned 7 messuages and 19 a. of land in Fugglestone and Wilton, had pasturage for 25 sheep, (fn. 61) and he is representative of a large group of men who were engaged in this kind of mixed farming. The more abundant evidence of the 16th century shows the continuance of this practice; for example, property in Wilton and Fugglestone sold by William Dutton in 1547 included 20 a. of pasture and 10 a. of uncultivated heath, with rights of common pasture for 180 sheep in Fugglestone and Wilton. (fn. 62) When the manor of Washern passed to Sir William Herbert one of the free tenants claimed, according to a custumal of 1315, rights of pasture for 51 sheep after the lord's beasts had been moved from the common of South Ugford, and another tenant had similar pasture rights for 3 draught animals in the common pasture of Ugford. The lord held some 20 a. in demesne in Washern Marsh; these lay fallow each year and the lord's cows and cattle occupied them between 25 March and 1 August, but after that date two free tenants had rights of pasture for 11 cows and 2 draught animals, and the Rector of St. Mary's had pasture rights for 4 cows. In Broadmead next to the marsh the tenants had similar pasture rights. The lord also held in demesne 'les Firzes', consisting of 160 a., and a down of 50 a. supporting 120 sheep; in all he had rights for 400 sheep on the downs outside the Park. The tenants of this manor had rights of common for cattle and sheep in the 20-acre Eastmarsh from 14 September; and in the Westmarsh, which was about the same size, from Pentecost to Candlemas, and in a sheep down lying at Cowper's Cross next to Harnham Down. (fn. 63)
The 17th-century survey of the manors of Bulbridge and Washern recorded that most of the sheep downs and sheep pastures of Bulbridge, Washern, and South Ugford had been leased to the Twogood family of Bulbridge. Thus in less than a century sheep-breeding had passed out of the hands of the 21 customary tenants, 20 of whom in 1567 had rights for 37 sheep and one for 51 sheep, to a single family. Part of Bulbridge and Washern Marsh had been inclosed, and 10 a. of its pasture had been leased to James Abbot, one of the earl's tenants. The common rights of Bulbridge Marsh were substantially untouched, and the tenant of Hall's farm in Ugford had rights of common for his cattle there. (fn. 64)
Before the 16th-and 17th-century surveys no evidence is available to permit an accurate estimate of the respective numbers of free tenants and villeins. Numerous deeds dating from the late 13th and early 14th centuries show, however, that there were many free tenants having the right to sell and exchange their property or bestow it in free alms. The families of Sireman, Cray, Seliman, and Smith all of Fugglestone St. Peter, and the families of Nosuch and Falk of Quidhampton were constantly selling and exchanging property in this way in the latter part of the 13th century. (fn. 65) In 1567 there were 3 free tenants in Washern and South Ugford and 21 customary tenants; while in 1631–2 there were 22 tenants by indenture in Bulbridge, Washern, and South Ugford, but only 5 tenants by copy. There were also 14 tenants by indenture within Wilton Park, but most of them held only a house and garden plot.
The inclosure within Wilton Park and the practice of letting out big areas of land to large-scale farmers resulted in a reduction in the number of family farmers. This process was more or less complete by the early 19th century. In 1831 there were only two farmers occupying their own land and they both employed labourers. There were no owner-occupiers who farmed their land by themselves. In contrast, there were 113 adult male agricultural labourers. (fn. 66)
The existence of a mill in the suburb of Bulbridge in the 10th century may be inferred from the bounds of a Saxon land grant, dated c. 956, (fn. 67) in which the boundary at the Nadder went as far as the mill weir somewhere near Bull Bridge. The Domesday survey made no mention of any mills within the borough, but the returns were not given in detail. There was, however, a mill in Ugford worth 5s. (fn. 68)
In the 13th century the chief mill-owners of the district were the Isembard family. They owned three mills in 'Patchford', one of which became the subject of a dispute in 1249 between Joan, wife of the late John Isembard, who claimed it as part of her dower, and William, son of Ralph Isembard; (fn. 69) at the same time William Fabyan quitclaimed to Robert, son of John Isembard, 1 messuage and 3 mills in Wilton. (fn. 70) Some fifty years later, in 1305, Clarice, widow of Robert Isembard, assured the reversion of a messuage, mill and virgate of land, which was her dower, to Richard of Chisledon, (fn. 71) but in 1316 Joan Isembard of Wilton quitclaimed to Ambrose of Newton 2 messuages, 3 mills and 25 a. of land in Wilton and South Newton, of which one mill still formed the dower of Clarice. (fn. 72) The site of one of the Isembard mills was in Mill Lane, off South Street, and was known right up to the 16th century as Isembard's mill. (fn. 73)
The Harvey family were also mill-owners in the 13th century and they possessed the Bulbridge mill amongst others; it seems likely that this mill occupied the same site as that mentioned above in the Saxon land charter. In 1248–9 Agnes, wife of Sabar of Bulbridge ('Burebrigg'), claimed from Ralph Harvey as her dower ⅓ of 2 mills with some land, all lying within the borough. (fn. 74) In 1270–1 William of Bishopstrow, clerk, quitclaimed to Ralph Harvey and his wife Juliet his right in half the mill of 'Chaldewell' in Ugford, to be held by Ralph and his wife in perpetuity. (fn. 75) In 1287 Ralph Harvey, descendant of the former Ralph, and his wife Maud quitclaimed to John Goldrun, burgess, and his wife Joan their mill of Bulbridge. (fn. 76) Late-13th-century records mention yet another mill in the suburb of Ditchampton, which at the end of the reign of Henry III was in the possession of a certain John of Bideford. (fn. 77)
It has been seen that one of the three mills existing within the borough at the end of the 13th century was situated in Mill Lane in the neighbourhood of South Street; the other two may have been the Crow Mill, in Crow Lane, and Plane Mill, off Minster Street, which still existed in the 16th century. (fn. 78) Apart from the mills already mentioned in the suburbs of Bulbridge, Ugford, and Ditchampton there was one in Washern. The abbey had its own mill, known as Monastery Mill; it is clearly discernible on the Washern side of the Nadder in the sketch of Wilton made for the Pembroke survey, c. 1568, (fn. 79) but by then it was known as 'Herbert's Mill'. In 1382–3 the Abbess of Wilton acquired from Henry Haversham two mills in Wilton, one described as a water mill and the other as a fulling mill, together with 12 a. of land in Washern; she enfeoffed three chaplains with these mills but retained the profits herself. (fn. 80) The water mill was that situated in Mill Lane which retained the name of Isembard's mill; at the Dissolution it passed to Sir Thomas Hall and later to his heir Osmund Hall who farmed it at £4 a year, (fn. 81) and henceforth it was usually called 'Hall's Mill'; tenants of Washern, Fugglestone, Netherhampton and Quidhampton owed suit to this mill. In the 17th century the mill was leased by Humphrey Ditton and his sons, (fn. 82) but there is no evidence of its survival into the 18th century, by which time it had probably become derelict, and left only its name to the lane in which it had stood.
The fulling mill on the Nadder was also known as the 'wodemyll' and it was situated in Washern. Before the Dissolution it was farmed out by the abbey to Richard Crede, a clothier of Bulbridge, and in 1517–18 Richard's son Henry was tenant. After the Dissolution it passed with the other possessions of the abbey to Sir William Herbert, but Henry Crede continued for some time as tenant. In 1538–9 the tenant was Margaret, widow of William Clement, described as a rich clothier. In 1545 it was wantonly destroyed by Christopher Willoughby, a leading burgess and notorious troublemaker, (fn. 83) and the site of the mill is only suggested by the adjoining Wodmyllmead, inclosed with the rest of Washern within Wilton Park. (fn. 84)