Manchester City Council

Markets History of Manchester's Markets

A brief look at the past

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.

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