ARH Design 2016

A MARKET SINCE 1253 by John Duffell

IN 1253 KING HENRY III GRANTED A CHARTER TO THE ABBOT AND CANONS OF WALTHAM Holy Cross to hold “One market every Monday at the heath of Eppinges in the county of Essex”.  The “heath of Eppinges”, or Epping Heath, was an area near All Saints Church in Epping Upland. At the time the extensive parish of Epping was divided into two parts – Upland, where the church was situated, and Townside, where the actual town stood. The market remained under the control of Waltham Holy Cross for over 300 years.

       In 1568 Queen Elizabeth I visited Thomas Heneage, who was then the owner of Copped Hall. He was something of a favourite of the Queen, and as such she had granted the estate of Copped Hall to him four years previously . During her visit the Queen bestowed upon him the title of “Clerk of the Market, with his heirs forever”, thereby giving all future owners of the Copped Hall Estate the right of ownership of the market. This remained in place until 1955, when the right of ownership was purchased  by Epping Urban District Council.

       By 1575 the population of the Townside part of Epping had increased considerably, and the market was moved there. There was a row of stalls and market buildings along the middle of what is now the High Street, including a market house and a buttercross. The buttercross stood opposite what is now the Fat Face shop on one side, and Star Lane on the other. Buttercross Lane is of course named after this. The market house was demolished 1845. In 1671 King Charles II re-confirmed the charter previously  issued by Queen Elizabeth, and in addition granted a cattle market to be held on a Thursday

      In 1955 Epping Urban District Council purchased the rights to the market from the Copped Hall Estate. Five years later it was announced that the livestock market was to close. By that time many farmers were selling cattle direct to a butchers, and sending pigs to bacon factories. Consequently the need for a market auction had been reduced. This reduction in use had prompted the Ministry of Agriculture to withdraw its Certifying Officer from the market. The following year the familiar market railings were removed. The railings can be seen in the picture on the right, which was produced as a postcard around 1950.

       In 1974 the rights for the market were transferred to the newly-formed Epping Forest District Council. It was offered to Epping Town Council, but this was declined. By 1981 the Town Council had a change of heart, and the rights were transferred to them. Part of the deal was the purchase of the tractor and seven trailers used to transport the dismantled market stalls from the High Street to the garages in the Bakers Lane car park in which they were kept. These were valued at £2,900.

       The market continues under the auspices of the Town Council today, and still draws the crowds on a Monday. After over 750 years, an Epping tradition lives on.

       Epping became famed all over England  for the quality of its butter and also its pork and sausages. It was rumoured at the time that the sausages were flavoured with venison poached from the forest. The market stretched from the Duke of York public house (now the site of Barclays Bank) down to the Black Lion. Market day was changed to a Friday.

       A rather unusual incident took place in the market in 1830. Thomas Godfrey, the master of the workhouse (now St Margaret’s Hospital), came out of the George & Dragon leading a woman with a halter around her neck. He took her to the market place and proceeded to sell her by public auction. He was successful, raising the princely sum of 2/6 (12½p).

       In September 1859 a cattle market was held at the rear of the White Lion, instituted by Messrs Smith & Moore. In November of the same year another was opened in the High Street by Mr W Wederell. For a time the two  were held on alternate weeks, but the Smith & Moore market was soon discontinued. Mr Wederell continued as auctioneer in the market until 1887, when the business was purchased by Hugh Sworder. He was joined by Harry Knight, and between them they leased the rights to hold the market auctions from the Copped Hall Estate.

       In 1897 the Victoria Buildings were erected in the High Street near the market place, and it was here that Sworder & Knight set up their office. The picture below left shows the two men outside their office in 1906. Hugh Sworder died in 1921, and Gerald Trotter became Harry Knight’s partner. The business was eventually sold to Ambrose & Son in 1946.

       In January 1918 a meeting was held at the Victoria  Hall  to discuss proposals to change market day back to a Monday, The meeting was well attended by farmers, buyers and local tradesmen. At the time animals were brought into the market on a Friday, and had to be killed and cut up by a butcher on the same day in order to be sold in his shop on the Saturday. This was inconvenient for the butchers, and bad for the customers because the meat was not always  in the best condition. After a lengthy discussion it was decided by a vote of 42 to 22 to make the proposed change. In the early 1930’s there was a move by Waltham Abbey Holy Cross Council to get the market changed back to a Friday. They claimed that Epping’s Monday market was having a detrimental effect on their own, which was held on a Tuesday. The case was heard before a Sheriff’s court in Chelmsford. The court  found in favour of Epping, and market day remained on a Monday.

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