Proliferation of markets across the borough in days gone by

By Susan Yates - Nub News contributor

31st Jul 2023 | Local History

Medieval market. BBC Bitesize.
Medieval market. BBC Bitesize.

The latest in the occasional series of articles from Susan Yates, chair of Thurrock History Society, highlights typical Essex summer's events from yesteryear.


RECENTLY, while at Horndon Feast and Fayre, I was admiring the Woolmarket and it made me start thinking about the history of markets and fayres. 

I remember as a child visiting Romford Market with my Nan and the pens that held the sheep and cattle sold there were still visible. The market stopped selling livestock in 1958 but in 1973 you could still buy a puppy there. 

Markets and Fayres, as far back as Roman times, have always been a very important part of the economy of our villages and towns and were the main source of trade and go back to before written records began. 

In medieval times you could not just hold a market you had to obtain a Royal Charter. 

The oldest Essex market appears to be at Waltham Abbey in 1108.

The first market in Thurrock was held in West Thurrock in 1207 followed by Grays Thurrock in 1221 and Fobbing in 1227. 

Aveley had permission to hold a market from 1248 and a fayre from 1286. 

Old Aveley.

Aveley market was held according to the map of 1593, outside the church. In fact the road there was much wider than it is now and there were buildings in the middle of the road which explains the unusual road layout at the junction of Ship Lane and Aveley High Street. 

In later years there was a butter and cheese market in Ship Lane. 

There was an ancient decree from the time of Henry III, 750 years ago, that you could not hold a market within 6.66 miles of the nearest one. 

This was reckoned to be the distance a man could drive sheep and cattle in a day. 

In 1989 the Borough of Redbridge wanted to open a market in Ilford and it was referred to Parliament by Romford and the ancient decree was upheld.

Another Thurrock town with a market was Horndon on the Hill. 

Richard Gifford had a charter for a fayre in 1277 and the grant was reiterated in 1280 and in 1281 a market is mentioned. 

More recently in the reign of Henry VII Sir John Shaa of Arden Hall was granted crown licences to trade in both wool and woollen cloth.

It could have been then that a woolmarket was built as it is mentioned in records that a Court was held in 1525 at Horndon Market. 

Horndon Woolmarket.

The fayre came to an end in June 1873 when the Secretary of State ruled that it would be for the convenience and advantage of the public that the said Fayre should be abolished and Horndon market passed into history.  

The fayre was revived in 1974 and is still held annually on the last weekend in June, although it now takes a different format.

In 1907 we have the first record of Stanford-le-Hope market. 

The Thurrock Gazette records that on 26th May 1907 Messrs. Offin and Rumsey of Rochford started the first cattle market sale. Mr. Offin made a short speech then the auction of beasts began.The site was on the north side of the road opposite what became the permanent market place which was adjacent to the Mr Boorman's Maltings in Victoria Road.

The market closed on 26th May 1968 after 61 years of trading.

There were other markets in Thurrock over the centuries, such as those at South Ockendon, Corringham and West Tilbury. 

Grays market was held by the Kings Head pub at the end of the High Street. 

I can remember going there with my mum to buy eggs and other foodstuffs in the days before freezers. 

South Ockendon had its market in Derwent Parade which was well known for its butcher's stall that sold joints of meat and delicious sausages. 

The only market in Aveley now is its Christmas market held in the High Street every December.


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