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Toddington Market and Fairs

The Green about 1920 [Z1306/126]
The Green about 1920 [Z1306/126]

The Gazetteer of Medieval Markets and Fairs tells us that the right to hold a market on Thursdays and an annual fair on Saint George's Day (April 23rd, to which saint the church is dedicated) was granted to William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke in 1218. In 1250 the grant of the market was confirmed to Paulinus Peyvre, Lord of the Manor of Toddington, and he was permitted to hold a fair on the feast of the Holy Trinity (the first Sunday after Pentecost, itself forty days after Easter). In 1315 John Peyvre was granted a market to be held on Saturday instead of Thursday and the date of the fair was changed back from Trinity to the feast of Saint George . The market charter granted to Paulinus Peyvre was confirmed in 1386 by King Richard II (1377-1399) and the fair reverted again to Trinity.

In 1531 the lords of Toddington renewed their licence for a weekly market; by this date two fairs were being held, each for two days, one over the feast of Saint Bartholomew (August 24th) and the other over the feast of Saint Katherine (November 25th). In the sixteenth century the Hospital of St. John the Baptist was pulled down and the materials used to build a market hall in the Square. It is possible the market was discontinued for a time as it is not included in John Leland's mid-century list of Bedfordshire market towns, but it was flourishing in 1681 when no less than sixteen butchers rented stalls in the market-place. The location of Toddington away from any main roads meant this was only a temporary period of success and it proved unable to compete with the larger towns of Luton, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard. The market was discontinued again in the eighteenth century and the market hall was demolished in 1799. It was again revived in 1850, but by 1891 there were only a few stalls selling meat and other items in Church Square on Saturdays and the tolls were leased by the lord of the manor to Mr. W. Pilgrim for 10s per annum. The market square itself became a village green.

In 1693 three fairs were confirmed to Philadelphia, Lady Wentworth; these were now held on April 14th, the first Monday in June, and October 22nd. By the beginning of the nineteenth century thriving fairs were held on April 25th, the first Monday in June, September 4th, November 2nd and December 16th.