Westbury: Fairs and markets

Pages 175-176

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 8, Warminster, Westbury and Whorwellsdown Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.

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A weekly market on Friday and an annual fair on the vigil, feast, and morrow of All Saints (1 Nov.) was granted to Walter Pavely, lord of the manor of Westbury, in 1252. (fn. 1) In 1291 a further grant was made to the lord of the manor of a market on Tuesday, and a fair on the vigil, and feast of the Translation of St. Benedict (11 July), and the five following days. (fn. 2) Six years later Walter Pavely petitioned that the date of this fair might be altered to the vigil, and feast of St. John before the Latin Gate (6 May), and this change was made. (fn. 3)

When the lands of Sir John Pavely were divided after his death in 1361, the profits of fairs and markets were divided between his heirs. One half thus went to the lords of the manor of Brook, and the other was presumably divided between the two daughters of John St. Lo who inherited the manor of Westbury with its appurtenant hamlets. (fn. 4) In 1460 a market on Thursdays, and three annual fairs were granted to Thomas Seymour, Katharine Chidiock, and John Willoughby, lords of the manors of Westbury Seymour, Westbury Arundell, and Brook respectively. One fair was to be on the vigil, day, and morrow of St. George (23 Apr.), the second on Whit Monday and the Tuesday and Wednesday following, and the third on the vigil, day, and morrow of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 Sept.). Disputes and matters arising out of the market and fairs were to be dealt with in a special court set up by the grantees and held by a steward appointed by them. (fn. 5) In 1515 a market at Westbury on Fridays was granted to Robert Willoughby, Lord de Broke (d. 1521) presumably in place of the former Thursday market. The Whitsun fair was retained, and other fairs were granted for the Monday before the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June), the day of the Translation of St. Edward the Confessor (13 Oct.), and the Friday before the beginning of Lent. A piepowder court was also confirmed. (fn. 6)

Leland in c. 1540 described Westbury market as a small one. (fn. 7) In 1673 it was still held on Fridays, and was said to be 'very considerable for corn', (fn. 8) and in 1751 it was called a 'good one for corn'. (fn. 9) The market was still being held on Fridays in 1792, (fn. 10) but some time before 1835 it was changed to Tuesday in the hope of making it more convenient as a corn market. (fn. 11) The presentation of a Market Hall in 1815 by Sir Manasseh Massey Lopes, lord of the manor, (fn. 12) may also have been made in the hope of stimulating trade. Attempts to maintain the market, however, failed, and in 1835 trade was said to have passed to Warminster, and the Westbury market was described as purely nominal. (fn. 13) By 1876 the market had become extinct. (fn. 14)

In 1751 the Whitsun fair and the fair held at the beginning of Lent were still being held, (fn. 15) and by 1825 an Easter fair had been introduced. (fn. 16) The profits of this, like those of the fair at the beginning of Lent, belonged to the lord of the manor, but the profits of the Whitsun fair belonged to the mayor. (fn. 17) By 1835 the fair at the beginning of Lent had been discontinued and in 1880 the Whitsun fair was said to consist of no more than one or two gingerbread stalls, (fn. 18) and by 1888 it had been discontinued. (fn. 19) In 1792 a fair was held at Dilton Marsh annually on Easter Monday and 13 September, (fn. 20) and in 1888 a fair at Dilton Marsh on 24 September and a fair at Westbury on the first Tuesday in September were the only fairs being held. (fn. 21) The Westbury fair survived for the first few years of the 20th century but by then it was being much criticised for the trouble it caused. (fn. 22) At the end of the 19th century there was also a sheep fair on Bratton Down. Some 20,000 sheep were brought to this fair in the early 20th century, but by 1914 the numbers had dwindled and the fair did not survive the First World War. (fn. 23)

All profits accruing from the markets and fairs, except from the mayor's fair, continued to belong to the lord of the manor until the market and fairs became extinct.


  • 1. Cal. Ch. R. 1226-57, 394.
  • 2. Ibid. 1257-1300, 389.
  • 3. Ibid. 467.
  • 4. See p. 149.
  • 5. Cal. Ch. R. 1427-1516, 137.
  • 6. L. & P. Hen. VIII ii, p. 449.
  • 7. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, v. 83
  • 8. R. Blore, Britannia (1673), 242.
  • 9. England, Gaz. (1751), ii.
  • 10. Rep. Com. Market Rights and Tolls, (C. 5550), p. 215 H.C. (1888), liii.
  • 11. Appendix to Rep. Com. Municipal Corps. H.C. 116 p. 1379 (1835), xxiv.
  • 12. See pp. 141-2.
  • 13. Appendix to Rep. Com. Municipal Corps (1835), p. 1379.
  • 14. Mins. Evidence Rep. Com. Municipal Corps. [C. 2490-1], p. 185 H.C. (1880), xxxi.
  • 15. England, Gaz. (1751), ii.
  • 16. Hoare, Mod. Wilts. Westbury, 6.
  • 17. Appendix to Rep. Com. Municipal Corps. (1835), p. 1379.
  • 18. Mins. Evidence Rep. Com. Municipal Corps. (1880), p. 185.
  • 19. Rep. Com. Market Rights and Tolls (1888), p. 215.
  • 20. Ibid. p. 214.
  • 21. Ibid. p. 215.
  • 22. Min. Bk. Westbury U.D.C.
  • 23. Bratton, W.I. Scrap Bk.