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Leighton Market After the Middle Ages

Market Cross cross about 1800
The Market Cross about 1800 [Z1130/72]

The first mention of the market in any document held at Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service is an assignment of the lease of the Manor of Leighton alias Grovebury in 1576. The previous year the Dean and Chapter of Saint George's Chapel Windsor had leased the manor to Francis, George and John Barne of London for 89 years and they now assigned that lease to Sir Rowland Hayward of London. The lease specifically mentions the toll and profits of markets and fairs [KK7].

In 1583 Henry Jones of London mortgaged the manorial office of woodward as well as the Market Place and Market House of Leighton Buzzard to Philip Grymes of London for £330 [KK14]. It is likely that by the Market Place and Market House was meant the farm of the market dues. In 1585 the tenant of the Manor, Sir Christopher Hoddesdon leased the Jury Loft of the Market House at Leighton Buzzard to Edmund Bolsworth of Leighton Buzzard, tanner for 21 years at £6/8/- per annum provided he kept the loft "comelye benched att one of the sides and at one of the endes thereof". He also had to keep a window at the west end sufficiently glazed and to allow suitors at courts held in the Moot Hall free entrance to the Loft. These courts were market courts, often called Courts of Pie Powder in other places, at which disputes which arose at the market were settled.

Market Square and High Street on market day about 1900
Market Square and High Street on market day about 1900 [Z50-72/109]

The market seems to have been divided into different areas for different transactions, several 17th century documents refer to the Corn Market, for example. Other areas, such as the ground floor of the Market House, were used as butchers' shambles and the High Street contained areas used to pen animals. The various types of animal always occupied the same set position, so the western part of the north side was used to pen cattle, the eastern part of the north side near the Market Cross, the sheep and the pigs on the south side opposite the sheep.

Some idea of the size and profitability of the markets and fairs can be gathered from leases of the right to collect tolls. In 1737 the tenant of the manor leased the right to collect tolls at the market and fairs to William Wingrove of Wing [Buckinghamshire] for six years at £90 per annum [KK320] and in 1861 Henry Hanmer, then Lord of the manor leased the collection to William Roberts of Aylesbury for seven years at £160 per annum [KK323].

In 1918 Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council purchased both the Market Hall (called the Town Hall) and the market tolls [UDLLM2/4].