1750 - Markets and Fairs

Right from the earliest times until the Industrial Revolution, the pattern of shopping for most people was the exact opposite of our own. Our standard of living is based on what we earn and what we can buy with it. Their prime concern was with what they could grow or make for themselves. Anything else would come from the weekly market, where agricultural produce and locally-made goods would be sold. The market traders could be highly specialised - one might sell nothing but candles, another watercress and so on. Why would some items be sold from stalls while other commodities were in tubs or baskets on the ground?

In a pre-industrial Britain , towns were built around their market-place where, once a week, local produce and the goods the townsfolk made would be bought and sold. In larger towns, sellers of particular goods might be assigned to particular streets, a practice that in time - especially when traders began to take permanent shops - gave some thoroughfares their names. More valuable goods, such as cloth or spices, would be sold from stalls, which gave protection from the elements and market-place filth. A charge was levied for the hire of a stall or permission to put one up. There was no such thing as packaging or wrapping, so most goods would be sold straight out of the sack, basket or barrel in which they were brought to market-the tolls for laying out goods on the ground in this way were much cheaper. With a complete lack of standardisation in weights and measures, buyers (and sellers) needed to keep their wits when making transactions. Haggling was the norm, and people tended to buy in bulk quantities - enough to last them a week, a month or longer. Much more exciting were the annual fairs, held in different parts of the country for days or even weeks at a time. They attracted goods and customers from far afield. Here the poor might buy rare luxuries such as a bunch of ribbons, while the stewards of great houses and wives of country gentlemen would lay in stocks of non-perishable goods for the winter months. Holding a fair was a money-making privilege for which permission was granted by the monarch, and the normal licence-holders were the churches. As a result, many fairs were held - frequently on saints' days - in and around churchyards and monasteries.


1750 - Village Shop