BOLTON’S market tradition stretches back through eight centuries to the year 1251 when Henry II granted a Royal Charter to the lord of the manor, William de Ferrars.

Ashburner Street market has always been a popular place for local people to shop. With stalls selling everything from fresh fish to reels of cotton the market is a lively venue on a Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The market in Ashburner Street was built in 1932 and despite recent alterations and modernisation still retains the character it has long been famous for.

Prior to this market being built, markets were held in the Great Moor Street enclosure. Bolton Corporation Acts of 1922 and 1925 made provision for a new wholesale and retail market to replace the old one and a part of what was known as the Bessemer Site on Blackhorse Street was chosen for the new market by the Markets Committee.

The old Bolton forge had closed, and the land it occupied provided an ideal site for the market experts at the time decided.

The site lay between Railway Street on the North, Blackhorse Street on the East and Moor Lane on the West.

The scheme was part of a much bigger scheme of architectural change in the centre of Bolton.

The building itself cost £101,950, clearing and preparation of the site £13,363, and the paving and sewer work £10,727 making a total of £126,040.

The buildings included a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, wholesale and retail fish market, and miscellaneous retail market. Except for a small “open” section, all branches of the market were now brought under cover and protected from the weather, though the garden plant traders continue to trade outside on a cobbled path across the road next to the bus station.

Across Ashburner Street from the market were once the Market’s Superintendent’s Office and the Weights and Measures Department building, also a public weigh office and weigh bridge. Behind and alongside these buildings there was a large paved square used normally as a parking ground and for the annual Summer and New Years Fairs.

Prior to the building of Ashburner Street Market the method of selling outdoors was very different.

Before Roman times, people exchanged goods mainly through barter, a system where people used goods rather than coins to pay for things they wanted.

It was not until the Middle Ages that the market place became a method of selling and buying items.

The position of a market within a town was usually determined by that of the Parish Church so it is little wonder Bolton’s first markets were held near to Bolton Parish Church in Churchgate.

The traders erected their stalls inside or in close proximity to the church grounds.

This is because the church was the centralised regular meeting place for most people at a time when communities would be scattered about the town.

The most popular day for the market in the Middle Ages was of course Sunday, when church attendance was at its height. A market cross was almost invariably erected to mark the spot of the market. It served as a symbol of religion, reminding people of their duty to the church, and this was pressed home each market day by preaching friars.

In 1285, during the reign of Edward I, a law was passed which stopped people holding markets and fairs in churchyards. Gradually the market traders moved outward, first setting their stalls in a circle round what had come to be regarded as the sacred enclosure, the churchyard, and later along the broad way leading to the church, where the shops that succeeded them were eventually to form the centre of the town.

Therefore as markets grew up around the church, the town grew up around the market. The market place, by attracting trade and people, was the focus of most towns, and they have taken their shape around it. The position of the market place determined the basic street pattern which often survived after the market ceased to operate.

Stalls within local markets formed the simple beginnings of retail trade today.

Markets remained important until the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century. They mark a stage in the evolution of shopping from the primitive system of barter to the use of coins to pay for things.

Markets were closely related to fairs, and often evolved from them.,

Most of our readers will recall the New Year fairs in Bolton were held close to the Ashburner Street Market.

Fairs were originally used for the exchange of goods on a large scale apparently. The goods would be those that could not be obtained locally. There were also ‘hiring’ fairs often called “mops” where the local landowners could hire labour.