The right to hold a market in Garstang on a Thursday dates back over 700 years.
On 18th July 1314 a grant was made by Edward II: “To the Abbot & Convent of the Blessed Mary of Cockersand for a market to be held on Thursdays on his Manor of Garstang in the County of Lancaster, and a fair for two days on the vigil and feast of St Peter and St Paul with all the liberties, customs, etc. excepting it to be inconvenient to neighbouring merchants and fairs”.
When in 1538/39 Cockersand Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII that privilege of holding a market reverted to the Crown.
On 13th January 1597 Elizabeth I renewed the privilege granted by Edward II and granted the additional privilege of holding a second annual fair at Martinmas.
On 5th August 1679 Charles II granted a charter of incorporation (in Latin) which was destroyed by fire on 4th January 1761, but a copy remains in the Chapel of the Rolls of the High Court of Chancery.
In 1822 George IV issued a replacement charter which contains a transcription of the one granted by Charles II.
It grants to the Bailiff and Burgesses of the Borough of Garstang (now the Town Trust) the right to hold a weekly market on a Thursday and to charge a fee to people who have stalls on the market.
A translation of part of the Charles II charter reads:
“And further we will and of our abundant special grace and favour we give and grant to the aforesaid Bailiffe and Burgesses and their successors that they and their successors shall have and may hold and keep within the Borough aforesaid towards the sustenance and relief of ye poor inhabitants thereof, one Market to be holden there upon Thursday weekly and every week for ever.
Also one Fair to be kept yearly and every year forever to begin upon the Vigil or Eve of St Peter and St Paul the Apostles, and to continue for two days; viz the said Eve the said Feast of St Peter and Paul, and also one other Fair to be holden yearly and every year in the said Borough forever to begin upon the Vigil or Eve of St Martin the Bishop in winter and to continue for two days; viz the said Eve the said Feast of St Martin, in the usual Market and Fair place in the said town, in and upon the several days aforesaid heretofore kept and now to us surrendered, which said surrender we have accepted and by these presents do accept together with the Court of Pypowder in the time of the several fairs aforesaid and all manner of tolls piccage stallage profits commodities advantages and emoluments whatsoever to such Market and Fairs”.
All of which means that the current Town Trust have the right to hold a weekly market on a Thursday, which continues to this day.
They also have the right to hold 2 fairs in the town, both to continue for two days. One of these is on the 29th June, which is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the other is on the 11th November, which is the Feast of St. Martin.
The Court of Pypowder was a special tribunal in England organised by a borough on the occasion of a fair or market. These courts had unlimited jurisdiction over personal actions for events taking place in the market, including disputes between merchants, theft, and acts of violence.
Piccage was a sum of money paid at fairs for permission to break ground for booths.
THE GARSTANG CORN EXCHANGE
Mr. F. W. Keppel, the Lord of the Manor at his own expense, had the Garstang Corn Exchange built.
He said that no toll or charge was to be made upon the grain sold in the exchange, wherever it came from.
The first stone of the new Corn Exchange was laid at Garstang on Thursday 16th October 1845.
The Corn Exchange opened on Thursday 27th November 1845, despite the building being incomplete. But as it was raining it was decided that it could be used, and the opening was attended by many merchants and others.
The building is still in use today, and now houses the Indoor Market.
The Market Bell
The current market bell dates from 1808, although it is believed that there was a bell in the Town Hall prior to this.
The market bell was rung to announce the opening of the market every Thursday.
It was also rung at 11am on Shrove Tuesday as a signal to apprentices that they must run the gauntlet of their workmates before taking the rest of the day as a holiday. (To run the gauntlet is defined as: “to be exposed to or forced to endure a series of threats, dangers, criticism or other problems, and refers to an old military punishment where soldiers were forced to run between two lines of other soldiers while being thrashed with rods or whips).
During the disastrous fire at the Town Hall in in February 1939 the bell fell from its mountings when they were destroyed by the fire and dropped to the floor among the ash and debris.
At a meeting of the Town Trust in January 1971 Councillor Frank Walmsley made a plea for the Market Bell to be restored. Members of the Town Trust decided to restore the bell to its former position in the turret of the building.
Repairs to the bell were carried out by Austin Walmsley and Michael Ward in September 1971, and the bell was mounted on an oak head stock supplied by Les Stewart, on special rope supplied by Harry Towers.
Mr Walmsley had a special interest in the bell as he had been a part-time fireman at the time of the Town Hall fire.
An interesting tale about the ringing of the bell for the opening of the market came from a Garstang resident, Mr Chris Storey. He was taken prisoner during the First World War and was stumbling across the German lines with his arms raised in surrender when he glanced at his watch. He realised that it was Thursday and exactly 11am. In his later years he would say “How I wished at that moment that I could hear that old Market Bell”.