Manchester City Council

Markets History of Manchester's Markets

A brief look at the past and a glance at the future

Early years

The traditions and origins of Manchester's markets stretch back centuries, and many of today's traders have been in the business of buying and selling for generations.

Manchester was first given the right to hold markets in 1066 by the newly victorious William the Conqueror. In a congratulatory gesture, he conferred the title of Manor of Manchester upon one of his valued knights. And with the honour came the privilege of holding markets and fairs.

The council's longstanding link with markets was created in 1845, when the authority bought the city's Market Rights from Sir Oswald Moseley. A year later, the Corporation of Manchester was given the power to provide and regulate markets in the city under the 1846 Manchester Markets Act.

For the next three decades, most markets in the city served the wholesale trade, dealing mostly in the slaughter of livestock and the preparation of meat for cold stores and general sale.

In 1872, the Smithfield area around Shude Hill and Thomas Street was transformed by the creation of the wholesale fruit, vegetable and fish markets. Situated in what is now known as the Northern Quarter, Smithfield was a cavernous structure filled with the vibrancy and chaos of goods being loaded and deals being made.

The beautifully carved arches of the original fish market can still be seen from the cobbles of the High Street.

The fringes of the area became a haven for retail stalls and barrow boys, selling anything from buns to books. The remnants of this early era can still be seen in Church Street and Shude Hill.

Improvements to New Smithfield

The wholesale market was re-located to huge purpose-built premises in Openshaw in 1973, and is now one of the largest wholesale markets in the country.

Traders work throughout the night to supply the best fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, fish, game and poultry to businesses and other markets across Greater Manchester.

New Developments

Longsight Market opened in 1974, and was redeveloped in 2002 to represent the diversity of the local community.  Wythenshawe Market, established in 1975, moved to it's current location in 1997 and has become a thriving market in the south. Since 2008 Gorton Market has been based in a new indoor hall, while Harpurhey Market is going from strength to strength after being relocated to its new undercover premises in 2004.  The Arndale Market is thriving in its new single floor location since 2006 on the upper floor of the Manchester Arndale Centre.

From it's humble beginnings as a small Sunday car boot, located at the New Smithfield Market, The Sunday Market and Car Boot has grown dramatically in popularity to become one of the largest Sunday Markets in the North West.

Church Street's stalls - the last remaining descendants of Manchester's original market - were finally demolished at the beginning of 2010, with a new purpose built market opening in March of the same year. The new market incorporates all but one of the original traders and is fronted by roller shutters that depict some of Manchester's most iconic moments.

A word about the future...

Manchester's Specialist Markets team have taken a few small and unique markets in Piccadilly and St Ann's Sq and helped them become an essential part of the fabric of our city centre.

The phenomenon that is our annual Christmas Market grows in size and prestige with every year, so much so that Christmas in the city simply wouldn't be the same without them.

More recently, the Specialist Team were awarded with three ISO awards by the British Assessment Bureau.

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