Salisbury: The market place

Pages 85-87

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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The market in New Salisbury was probably first held near the early settlement by St. Thomas's church, and an open space was no doubt left for it as the streets and buildings of the new city were laid out. In 1269 the Market Place was divided between the parish of St. Thomas and the new parish of St. Edmund. This may have been to ensure that a proportion of wealthy inhabitants, who probably lived near the Market Place, would support the new church. (fn. 1) The place was probably larger than at present, for Oatmeal Row, Ox Row, Butcher Row, and Fish Row show every sign of being encroachments of permanent shops built to replace the temporary stalls of earlier times. (fn. 2) In the Middle Ages the sale of food seems to have taken place on the west and south sides. A corn market was held in the 14th and 15th centuries at the north-west corner of the Market Place near the end of Castle Street; it was called 'the place where corn is sold'. (fn. 3) A cross which became known as the Cheese Cross or Milk Cross was built c. 1416 on the space between the present Market House and the corner of Minster Street, still called the Cheese Market. Sellers of cheese, milk, and fruit were then ordered to keep to this area. (fn. 4) Until that time the fruit and vegetable market, as well as that for herbage and poultry, had been held further south in Minster Street and around the Poultry Cross. (fn. 5) A cross existed here by 1307, and is frequently referred to as the Poultry Cross or the High Cross. (fn. 6) The present hexagonal cross of stone is of the 15th century, but the top part was restored in medieval style in 1853. It replaced a single pillar carrying a sundial and ball which had been added when the cross was repaired in 1711. (fn. 7)

Oatmeal Row takes its name from the market for oats and vegetables held near the Poultry Cross. Oatmeal Corner was mentioned in 1473–4. (fn. 8) The two rows now called Butcher Row and Ox Row probably represent successive encroachments upon the Market Place. Butcher Row is mentioned in the early 14th century. (fn. 9) In 1455 it consisted chiefly of holdings described as shops, but contained at least one house in which lived John Chippenham, first warden of the Butchers' Guild. (fn. 10) Haskins's conjecture that the city butchers occupied more permanent structures in the Butcher Row, while out-of-town butchers had their stalls on the site of Ox Row, is plausible. He suggested that Ox Row did not consist of permanent buildings before the mid-16th century, and that the open space south of Butcher Row was the place behind the row where in the early 15th century the butchers were ordered to slaughter their beasts. (fn. 11) To the east lay the 'fysschamels' where in 1314 some shops had been built and it was intended to build others. (fn. 12) In 1427 it was ordered that stranger fishermen should have their stalls on the common trench behind those of the city fishermen. (fn. 13) The buildings on the site of the shambles were called Fish Row by 1554. (fn. 14) Near the fish shambles, and on the site of the present Guildhall, stood the bishop's Guildhall; it was probably the hall built by Bishop's Simon of Ghent, who in 1314 granted a rent from a cellar under it to the dean and chapter. (fn. 15) Many of the houses in Oatmeal Row, Ox Row, Butcher Row, and Fish Row date from the 16th century, though most have been much restored and altered. The best surviving group is the eastern part of Fish Row, a three-storied block with projecting upper floors, altered in the early 19th century by the insertion of sash windows and small iron balconies.

Commodities other than food were sold chiefly at the eastern end of the Market Place. In 1342 hemp and linen thread were sold opposite the corner of Wyneman Street (the modern Winchester Street), (fn. 16) and in 1345 property in Carter Street was described as 'opposite the guildhall where wool is sold'. (fn. 17) In 1499 the assembly ordered that none were to tie ropes or hang cloths on the yarn market; (fn. 18) this was no doubt the same as the stone cross opposite the corner house of Carter Street mentioned in 1525. (fn. 19) In the later 16th century the tenant of the city weighbeam, which probably stood nearby, had to keep the walls of the yarn market in repair. (fn. 20) Also at this side stood in 1455 'a corner tenement where coal is sold', probably the same as 'le colecorner' in Carter Street mentioned in 1431. (fn. 21) In 1337 straw was sold near a house owned by Stephen Cheese called 'Chesecornere', (fn. 22) which lay in Carter Street; (fn. 23) nearby may have been 'a street called Chafcorner', mentioned in 1442. (fn. 24) The modern Queen Street still contains several medieval buildings. No. 8 is a two-gabled timber-framed house traditionally associated with John a Port, merchant, and mayor six times between 1446 and 1469, who lived in a house opposite the market in 1455. It was well restored in 1930 and was in 1960 used as a china shop. (fn. 25) No. 9 is also medieval, though concealed by a later frontage. Next to no. 14 is a narrow courtyard surrounded by medieval and later buildings, including one with an external Jacobean oak staircase leading to a gallery formerly open. Used in the early-20th century as Turkish baths, and since converted to shops and offices, it was formerly the inn called 'The Plume of Feathers'. (fn. 26)

In the streets around the Market Place stood rows of shops occupied by various trades. Ironmonger Row is said to have been near Oatmeal Row (fn. 27) and Cordwainer Row was opposite the Poultry Cross. (fn. 28) Wheeler Row and Smiths' Row are also mentioned (fn. 29) but it is not certain where they lay; the former was perhaps part of Oatmeal Row, for as late as 1810 a house was described as being in the Wheeler Row otherwise Oatmeal Row. (fn. 30) Cook's Row probably lay to the south-west of the Poultry Cross, and not in Castle Street as Hatcher thought, for in 1469 several houses inhabited by cooks in 'Le Cookerowe' were described as being by the George Inn. (fn. 31) Blue Boar Row, along the north side of the Market Place, took its name from the inn which stood from the 15th century, and probably earlier, on part of the site occupied in 1960 by the shop of Messrs. Style and Gerrish. (fn. 32) This still includes at the back a timberframed hall, to which an agreement to build a house 'within the Boor against the Market Place' in 1444 refers. (fn. 33) The Blue Boar remained in use as an inn until the early 19th century. (fn. 34) The stocks, pillory, and whipping post stood in the Market Place opposite Blue Boar Row in the 18th century. (fn. 35) The pillory post was taken down and the stocks removed to the Wood Market in 1845. (fn. 36) In 1887 lime trees were planted in the Market Place to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, (fn. 37) and a statue was erected there to Henry Fawcett (1833–84), the blind Postmaster-General who was born in Queen Street. (fn. 38) Opposite the corner of Blue Boar Row and Castle Street, near where the early corn market was held, the Market House, now called the Corn Exchange, was built in 1859. It was connected by the full-gauge Salisbury Railway and Market House Railway with the South Western Railway at Fisherton, (fn. 39) but the ¼ mile of line is now used only to supply fuel to the adjacent electricity works. (fn. 40)

South of the Corn Exchange, between the Cheese Market and St. Thomas's church, stood the citizens' earliest Council House, first referred to in the early 15th century. (fn. 41) It had a great door and an upper door, sometimes called the outer and inner doors, whose keys were held by the mayor and other responsible citizens. (fn. 42) Upon the walls of the assembly room were stretched two painted linen cloths, one of which, a yard in depth, hung behind the bench on which the chamberlains sat. (fn. 43) The building belonged to the city until the 18th century, when it was sold; in 1629 two of its upper rooms were used as a school. (fn. 44) The erection of a new Council House 'in the best and most fitting place' was proposed in 1565, but work was not begun until 1580, and completed four years later, on a site at the other end of the Market Place 'where the great elm late stood'. (fn. 45) This house, a timber-framed gabled building of three stories with open colonnades at the sides and a central turret, stood on the site of the present War Memorial. In 1685 the lower part was being used as a market house. (fn. 46) It was burnt down after the mayor's banquet in 1780; the city then found a benefactor in its Recorder, Jacob, Earl of Radnor (d. 1828), who offered to build a new Council House at his own expense and to his own design. (fn. 47) After some dispute about the site, the bishop agreed to the demolition of his Guildhall and prison, and the present building was erected. (fn. 48) It is of cream brick with stone dressing and vermiculated quoins, and was designed by Sir Robert Taylor, but 'executed with some alterations' after his death by his pupil William Pilkington. It was completed in 1795. (fn. 49) It formerly had a Doric colonnade recessed between the wings on the north front; this was replaced by the present portico, probably in 1889, when another projecting portico was removed from the west side to make room for an extension to provide new cells. (fn. 50) In 1896–7 further alterations were made, including the provision of a new court room. (fn. 51) When the present Council House was bought in 1927, (fn. 52) the name of the building was changed to the Town Hall, but local opposition led to the adoption of the present name, the Guildhall. (fn. 53)

Near the first Council House, on the north side of St. Thomas's churchyard, stood the city workhouse in use before the establishment of the Crane Street workhouse in 1637. (fn. 54) In 1647 it was leased out, (fn. 55) but remained the property of the corporation until it was sold at the same time as the old Council House. (fn. 56)


  • 1. See p. 69.
  • 2. See M. W. Beresford and J. K. S. St. Joseph, Medieval England, 160–1.
  • 3. Hatcher, Salisbury, 93; Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds G. 21. ix, 1412.
  • 4. Haskins, Guilds, 263; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 147d.
  • 5. Hatcher, Salisbury, 93–4; Haskins, Guilds, 263; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. f. 8d.
  • 6. Hatcher, op. cit., 93–4; D. & C. Sar. Deeds 1/1/8, 1307.
  • 7. Shortt, Salisbury, 89 and pl. 35; Illustrated London News, 26 March 1853, and see pl. facing p. 138.
  • 8. Sar. Corp. MSS. Swayne, Scrapbk., p. 19.
  • 9. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds. A.7. xii, 1328; B.31. vii, 1331; C.21. xii, 1347; C.17. ii, 1350.
  • 10. W.A.M. xxxvii. 67–8, 71–3, 75, 84, 88; Haskins, Guilds, 260. Pot Row, often mentioned at this time, was apparently near or a part of Butcher Row: Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds F.26. iv (1385): Pot Row Street by the Poultry Cross is referred to in 1565: ibid. Rent roll, 1565.
  • 11. Haskins, op. cit., 260–1; for the foreign butchers' stalls, see below, p. 138.
  • 12. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, 112.
  • 13. Haskins, Guilds, 262.
  • 14. P.N. Wilts. (E.P.N.S.), 20.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1313–17, 112; Haskins, Guilds, 262, and see pl. opposite.
  • 16. Haskins, op. cit., 265.
  • 17. D. & C. Sar. Deeds 1/1/9.
  • 18. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 203.
  • 19. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds J.2.x, 1525.
  • 20. Ibid. Ledger B. f. 342; Ledger C. f. 106.
  • 21. W.A.M. xxxvii. 67, 72; Sar. Corp. MSS. Swayne, Scrapbk., p. 50; ibid., Ledger A. f. 40.
  • 22. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds B. 10. ix.
  • 23. W.R.O. 164/1.
  • 24. Ibid.
  • 25. Jowitt, Salisbury, 73; W.A.M. xxxvii. 74.
  • 26. Haskins, Guilds, 315, 330, 333; Jowitt, Salisbury, pl. 39.
  • 27. Hatcher, Salisbury, 94; W.A.M. xxxvii. 69–70.
  • 28. Sar. Corp. MSS. Domesday Bk. 1413–33, f. 17 (1st nos.); D. & C. Sar. Wills, 4/3/8, Wm. Hupewell, 1310, John le Batizer, 1361.
  • 29. Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds C.23. vi, 1350,, 1357; Domesday Bk. 1413–33, ff. 10, 15, 137.
  • 30. W.R.O. 451/477, abstract of title; see also Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger B. f. 218.
  • 31. D. & C. Sar. Act Bk. Machon, f. 27; Hatcher, Salisbury, 94.
  • 32. Haskins, Guilds, 312–14.
  • 33. W.A.M. xv. 330–31.
  • 34. Haskins, op. cit., 314.
  • 35. Naish, Map, 1751.
  • 36. Sar. Corp. MSS. Directors' Min. Bk. 1841–55. The stocks were last used in 1858: Shortt, Salisbury, 104.
  • 37. Sar. Corp. MSS. Council Min. Bk. 1883–89.
  • 38. Kelly's Dir. Wilts. (1939).
  • 39. V.C.H. Wilts. iv. 287, and see pl. facing p. 139.
  • 40. Shortt, Salisbury, 122.
  • 41. See p. 97.
  • 42. Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger A. ff. 131, 134d., 169, 224, 239d., 251d.
  • 43. Ibid. f. 33d.
  • 44. Sar. Corp. MSS. Survey and Terrier 1611–76, f. 82 and f. 18 (2nd nos.); Corporation Terrier 1672–1716, pp. 15, 19; Hatcher, Salisbury, 821; Haskins, Guilds, 42.
  • 45. Hatcher, Salisbury, 284–5, 289, 292; Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C., f. 27.
  • 46. Shortt, Salisbury, 85.
  • 47. Hatcher, Salisbury, 533; Jowitt, Salisbury, pl. 42. See below, p. 109.
  • 48. See p. 121.
  • 49. Hatcher, Salisbury, 534–6; H. M. Colvin, English Architects, 1660–1840, 603.
  • 50. Shortt, Salisbury, pl. 40; Wheeler, Supplemental Chronology, 27.
  • 51. Shortt, op. cit., p. 105.
  • 52. See p. 84.
  • 53. Wilts. Cuttings ix. 94.
  • 54. See p. 82; it was probably here by c. 1600: Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger C ff. 159d., 196d.
  • 55. Sar. Corp. MSS. Survey and Terrier, 1611–76, f. 17 (2nd nos.).
  • 56. Hatcher, Salisbury, 821.