The Right To Hold A Market

Market - Let's Get It Right

First off, Dunstable's alleged Market Charter goes back to the days when populations were measured in hundreds rather than thousands, and the whole point of that restriction was surely to maintain a reasonable level of trade to make it worthwhile. This is the 21st century now, and the population of Houghton Regis is bubbling around 18,000, with the Dunstable population around 35,000. So I don't see any need for the restriction to still apply.

Secondly, where Market Charter's exist, it is generally forbidden to hold another market within  "six and three quarter miles". That, I presume, is to allow someone to push a hand cart from such a distance to the point of the market, do their trade, and then push the same hand cart back all in the same day. Now I ask you, is that a reasonable expectation of the way traders operate in the modern world? Of course not. In the time it takes to push a hand cart that distance, you could maybe have driven to Birmingham, so the distance restriction is totally ridiculous today.

It is written in The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868, of Dunstable, "A synod was held here in the early part of the 13th century, about which time was founded a monastery of Black Friars by Henry I., who erected a royal residence at Kingsbury Farm, rebuilt the town of Dunstable, which had been devastated by the Danes two centuries before, and constituted it a borough, with privilege to hold two markets weekly, Sunday and Wednesday, and a fair on St. Peter's day."

"But Dunstable has a market on a Friday", I hear you say. I am told that this Friday Market is held under The Food Act 1984.

Well, whatever Act allows Dunstable to have a market on a Friday, ought to be a way forward for Houghton Regis to also have a proper market, too. Whether it wants, or needs one at this time, is besides the point; it might desire one in the future. However, under section 50 of this Act is written "A market shall not be established in pursuance of this section so as to interfere with any rights, powers or privileges enjoyed within the authority’s area in respect of a market by any person, without that person’s consent."

So Dunstable's Friday market was presumably considered as not interfering with the privilege of the other two days. Or 'the authority' just consented.

'The authority', I'm guessing, would be the South Bedfordshire District Council, now superseded by the Central Bedfordshire Council. So it might appear that Houghton Regis is blocked from holding markets because it might require permission from CBC who allow our neighbouring town to enjoy many different market days. I cannot see how they could reasonably refuse a request from Houghton Regis, if a request was desired to be made. To deny it would be inequitable.

So, Dunstable has a "privilege to hold two markets"; I was curious because Gazetteer did not explicitly state "Market Charter". And apparently one of them is for a Sunday!

Digging deeper, in the GAZETTEER OF MARKETS AND FAIRS IN ENGLAND AND WALES TO 1516, it states of Dunstable "M (Prescriptive: borough) recorded 1131x33, when K Hen I issued a general notification of his grant of Dunstable with its market and other liberties to the Ca of St Peter of Dunstable (Regesta, ii, no. 1827). In 1287, the P of Dunstable held Wed and Sat markets, which he claimed by right of a charter granted by K Ric I on 3 Jul 1190 (QW, p. 14)"

In these abbreviations "M" is market. "Prescriptive" just made me plain curious. It transpires that all markets and fairs were treated as prescriptive unless evidence of a grant was found. (source). So, when this Gazetteer was written, there was no evidence of an actual grant. And it states "Wed and Sat markets".

The National Archives are not a lot of help in this study. Whilst records may be traced here showing an early royal grant of such rights, they may have no bearing whatever on present day market rights, which have been much affected by modifications or revocations of earlier charters, by grants of new rights (for example in borough charters), by the demise of old jurisdictions (as at the dissolution of the monasteries) and by modern local government reorganisation and boundary changes.

When I wrote to Wendy Fair Markets on this subject they explained,

"You are right that the original Charter was only for Wednesday and Saturday, but Local Authorities have far reaching powers to establish new markets, in particular under the Food Act 1984 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. They can also just use the Planning Act to give a market Planning Permission and then they can trade as long as it is on private land. If it is on Public Highway they also need permission of the Highway Authority under The Highways Act (1980) or they may need Street Traders Licence’s under The London and Local Authorities Act 1991 or The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982."

In conclusion, my general feeling is that there is plenty of doubt around the restrictions of Dunstable's charter priviledge that allow it to hold markets on two days of the week (Wednesday and either Saturday or Sunday - it's a grey area) that preclude any other town from holding a proper market within six and three quarter miles. Additionally, there are plenty of other mechanisms to permit the number of stalls in Houghton Regis to rise above four, should the demand ever arise.

Originally Posted by Alan Winter at 3/25/2012 11:50:00 am

2. In the 1960's and 70's the market was held in front of Queensway Hall (nowadays Asda's car park) Reference

3. Romford Market, 2009: FOI Request for a copy of the Royal Charter as written by Henry III in 1247. No charter was found to satisfy the request, but 'Close Rolls' was provided along with tale about the market being owned by the Crown until 1828, albeit that in 1619 James I leased the market tolls for 99 years to trustees for the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. Thereafter several transactions took place and the market sometimes passed to strangers, who found it difficult to enforce their authority in Romford. Reference

4. Doncaster 2010: FOI. "As a local authority, being the successor to a variety of Charters, Doncaster Council has the monopoly right to hold markets within the Borough and to control this monopoly within a distance of six and two-thirds miles. As such, the Council can hold markets – and license others to do so on its behalf - within the town wherever it deems suitable." Reference.

5. Leeds City Council 2010: FOI Question on legality of a market, "The Council is vested with the rights and duties of holding, regulating and controlling markets in the Leeds area under the provisions of the Leeds Corporation (consolidation) Act 1905 and the Food Act 1984." Reference

6. Dunstable Town Council took over the running of Dunstable Market on 1st June 2012. Councillor Jeannette Freeman, chairman of the community services committee, said: “The town council believes that a vibrant market is part of a thriving town centre and that the two work side by side. We are committed to the regeneration of Dunstable town centre and therefore will be investing heavily to ensure that the market once again becomes the heart of our town.” Reference

7. On their web site, Dunstable Town Council placed a notice: "If you currently operate any type of market or fair within a 6 2/3 mile radius of Dunstable or plan to, from 1 June 2012 you will need to apply for a Market Rights Licence. Please download the Dunstable Town Council Market Rights Policy and Market Regulations..." Reference

I attended the Town Council Management meeting in Houghton Regis this week. Based on the premise that a Market Charter exists for Dunstable, and that precludes any other market from taking place within six and three quarter miles, we apparently cannot have a market in Houghton Regis. But what we can have is a maximum of four stalls. If we continue thinking like this, some poor soul in many years to come will still be trying to change the rules and looking for a starting point.

1. Omar Roucoux has written information about Dunstable's Market History here which is pretty much as I recall reading in books I have read on the subject, Reference.

4. Birkenhead, 2009. FOI Request to view Birkenhead Market Charter. It would appear that a copy of the Birkenhead Corporation Act 1881 was produced to satisfy the request. Reference

ADDED 2/10/2014 (Thanks to Tracey McMahon for obtaining this response from Luton Borough Council Licensing Dept)

" It would appear that in the case of Dunstable the Corporation purchased the Market (and Manor) in 1867 and under the Local Government Act 1858 the Dunstable Local Government Board in 1871 established the power to set up markets, to take stallage, rents and tolls and also to enforce those 'market' rights. The origins of the 6 2/3 miles comes from the ability of sellers to be able to travel to the market, undertake their sales and then travel back all within one day.

Luton also had a Common law franchise which until 1911 was held by the Lord of the Manor, so there was an established right in Luton. This was confirmed and transferred to the Borough Council under the Luton Corporation Act 1911. It is those Market Rights which allows the Indoor Market to trade within the Mall. There are additional Acts which also apply, such as the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and 1982 and the Food Act 1984, and these also allow Local Authorities to set times, adopt, establish and acquire Market Rights.

Local Acts can limit the rights within the Borough, in the case of Luton that radius is set at 4 miles under the 1911 Act. Dunstable is therefore outside that area.

A market Franchise gives the holder the sole and exclusive right to hold markets within limits. As a necessary incident of its franchise rights the holder of a market franchise enjoys a right of protection from disturbance by a rival market within 6 2/3 miles. If the disturbance is likely to continue then it may be restrained by injunction. In the case of Luton this has been limited to the 4 miles so Dunstable would not be deemed to be a rival market. It is believed that the same would apply in reverse, however again you may wish to confirm this with the Legal Team at Dunstable Town Council.

Given the establishment of our own rights (Luton Borough Council) then there is no requirement to submit a request to Dunstable. If Dunstable were not to administer the Market Rights then this would lead to the franchise losing the right for enforcement. In that regard they are correct to ask for permission to be applied for. It would also appear that the Policy is not 'made up' but based on the decision in 1871."

Reference back to my blog post of March 2012 about Dunstable's markets.


tags: market charter dunstable houghton regis