TAKE A LOOK AT... (in Derbyshire)

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 10th August 1998 (p27), reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.


Since Hartington received the Peak District's first market charter in 1203, almost twenty other villages and towns were granted the right to hold weekly markets. As late as 1790 Cromford, newly expanded around Arkwright's cotton-spinning mill, acquired the right to hold a market, for which Arkwright also provided a market place with purpose-built shops.

Long before it became necessary to obtain a royal charter to hold a market, people had assembled to barter and trade at convenient sites, typically at cross-roads on regularly used tracks. It has been suggested that simple mark stones were set up at such points, some superseded by medieval market crosses or by later market houses. Alfred Watkins, author of 'The Old Straight Track', believed that he had located a number of original mark stones around the country, some on the sites of surviving markets, although none were found in the Peak District. However, the shaft of an ancient market cross still stands on the green at Monyash, which received a market charter in 1340. Much easier to find than market stones and crosses are market houses, or market halls, of which a few survive around the Peak District.


At Eyam, a small low building behind the village stocks once served as a market house; whilst it may have seen some trading between lead miners and merchants, its mainstay was local farm produce, especially eggs, poultry and butter.

In Winster's heyday - again in the lead mining era - the village market drew crowds 'thick and throng'. A regular Saturday market was still held in the latter half of the last century, its specialities meat and cheese. The prominent position of Winster's picturesque market house reflects its importance in village life. It is believed to date back at least 300 years; written records refer to stocks being erected by the market house in 1725. Trading originally took place on the stone-built ground floor inside five pillared arches, now filled in for strength. A later, upper storey of brick - rare indeed in the White Peak - has gritstone facings and mullion windows looking out onto the main village street.

In 1906 Winster Market House became the first Derbyshire property to be acquired by the National Trust, at a cost of £50. Now a listed building, it is open to the public on most summer weekends, serving as a National Trust Information Centre and shop. Admission is free. Unlike Eyam and Winster, Bakewell retains both an ancient market hall and an even older weekly market, held on Mondays since 1330, and always well supplied with produce from surrounding farms and hamlets. An old-established Friday butter market was still held within living memory and not so long ago beasts were sold in the open on Rutland Street. Close to recent-day trading activity stands the old two-storey market hall, obviously built to serve a prosperous market town, and one of Bakewell's architectural gems. High on its gables are carved stone shields, still with traces of colour, including arms of the ancestors of the Dukes of Rutland. Originally built as an open-sided market hall, its arches are amongst features better seen from inside, for the fascinating building now serves as a Tourist Information Centre. It has also been a wash-house, dance hall, library and restaurant.


Another town with a long market history is Longnor, 'Capital of the Moorlands', in its strategically important trading position on the Staffordshire/ Derbyshire boundary. Large numbers of sheep and cattle changed hands at Longnor market and lists of tolls payable by both buyers and sellers are still displayed outside the market hall of 1873. Matlock too has a Victorian market hall, separated from its modern successor by the River Derwent and the A6. Two thousand visitors a year were coming to John Smedley's hydro in the late 1860's, when Dale Road gained a handsome new building, designed by W. Hall of Northampton and built of Darley Dale stone. Generally known as the Town Hall, its commodious ground floor accommodated twelve shops and market stalls, whilst the upper floor provided a court room, council offices and an assembly room seating 500 people. Above the ground floor shop windows can be seen a row of carved stone shields, adding an air of civic pride to Matlock's first official public building.

© Julie Bunting
From "The Peak Advertiser", 10th August 1998.

Photograph of The Old Market Hall, Bakewell (elsewhere online)

Articles by Julie Bunting are reproduced with her kind permission.

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