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This little town went to market


Tim Machin, chairman of Long Sutton and District Civic Society, supports the case for Long Sutton historic market.

Just when things seem to be going well, some new controversy raises its ugly head to upset the apple cart.

A couple of months ago, our district council (South Holland) decided that drastic action was needed to improve the safety of Long Sutton’s historic Friday market after a health and safety report identified a number of possible safety risks.

Hackles were raised locally and a public meeting to discuss the concerns drew a large turnout.

Long Sutton’s Friday market charter was granted on May 4, 1202, by King John, so has been in fairly continuous use for over 800 years.

We don’t know for certain how soon the market got up and running or how popular it was, though 50 years later, it had evidently become a local institution because a second charter granted on December 20, 1252, was sought from the monarch, now Henry III, for a second weekly market each Thursday, plus an annual four-day fair each July. The same charter also granted Lutton a market each Friday.

Supply evidently generates demand because on January 4, 1282, Edward first granted a charter permitting a third weekly market for Long Sutton on each Wednesday, as well as an annual four-day fair for Lutton around July 25, coinciding with the one in Long Sutton a couple of miles distant.

These fairs were specifically held on four days around July 25, that day being the Feast of St James the Greater.

So Long Sutton’s local trading pre-eminence was now established, with the ability to hold three weekly markets plus an annual fair.

The organisation of the market days is uncertain. Presumably, there would be a livestock market on at least one of the three market days and certainly that was so by the end of the 19th century, when we have photographic evidence.

Food produce, household goods, clothes, peddlars’ wares, medicines, street food etc would all have been available.

The market days gave an opportunity for local people to catch up on news and gossip, meet, eat and drink socially (and no doubt anti-socially) and for public ‘naming and shaming’ to take place.

An entry in the ‘History of Long Sutton’ by Frank and Bruce Robinson for 1803 reads ‘At Spalding Sessions, Thomas Smith of Long Sutton, for stealing a jacket, was ordered to be publicly whipped next market day, and discharged’.

Nothing like a public whipping to draw the crowds!

Fortunes of the markets have come and gone. In 1823, a ‘Free Market’ event allegedly drew a crowd of 10,000, but attempts in 1848 to establish a ‘fat stock’ (animals fattened for sale) market failed through lack of interest. In 1858, the railway arrived and new, more distant markets were opened up – customers and traders alike could move further afield and perhaps the need for frequent local markets diminished.

The town now faces another challenge to its 800- year market history. Times have changed, but consumer demand remains strong and the traditional local market is not something we will give up easily.

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