Fairs and Markets

The market and fairs of Moreton were an early feature of the town; indeed, the market was what defined the settlement as a town, distinct from a village, until modern times. Its foundation and early history is dealt with in a separate page.

By the end of the 18th century, fairs were being held regularly in Moreton on the third Thursday in July and the last Thursday in October. There was a Great Market (especially for cattle) on the first Saturday in June before 1800, but in that year it was changed to the Saturday before Whitsunday. Very large numbers of cattle and sheep were brought to market on these occasions, and the tithe map shows fields on either side of the town designated as "Market Closes", presumably where animals which had come some distance could be held before sale.

The Fairs were big occasions for entertainment for all the population, and a chance to buy goods which they could not get locally. There were sporting events of all sorts - wrestling was popular, and horse-racing - and there would be all sorts of rogues and vagabonds looking for easy money, who made a practice of travelling from one fair to another to trick the simple country folk! A well-documented case is the murder of Jonathan May in 1835, on his way home to Dunsford after selling his cattle at the summer fair in Moreton. Treleaven's Diary also has many references to the trade and sporting events at the fairs.

Later, with the coming of the railway and more road traffic, the cattle market was held in what is now the Station Road car park, in front of Jubilee Cottages, until it was closed in 1939. The animals could then be taken down to the station to be moved by rail. Many local sheep were sold there - our photo shows Mr Jackman at the market.

In the eighteenth century, market traders were pushed out of their traditional spot at the top end of town, near the church, to the lower end of what had once been a great square around which the town grew. In the early nineteenth century the lord of the manor - the Courtenay family - built new market buildings here; they stood near the Bell Inn and opposite Muzle Patch until early in the last century.