Harborough market celebrates 800th anniversary

Published Monday 6 September 2021

A series of celebratory events are planned to mark the 800th anniversary of the Tuesday market in Market Harborough.

This year marks eight centuries of a Tuesday market being held in the town, and to celebrate a new historic market trail will be launched, along with some special guided walks, and a ‘People’s Gallery’ featuring photographs of the market, through the ages, which will be displayed with pride at the popular indoor market in Northampton Road from 8 September 2021.

Harborough Market LogoWith support from Leicestershire County Council, there will also be a curated exhibition and three display panels at Harborough Museum from 8 September.  

Since the 13th century, the market has always been a central part of the town.

While King John granted a royal market charter to the town of Market Harborough in 1204, the Tuesday market didn’t begin until 1221, when the market day was changed from Monday to Tuesday by King Henry III, as a result of a rival market being held in Rothwell on the same day.

King Henry III ordered the Sherriff of Northamptonshire to cease the Monday Rothwell Market, but this didn’t happen, leading the King to change the Harborough Market day to Tuesday in 1221.

When medieval townsfolk first began buying and selling produce at that Tuesday market, few would have envisaged that 800 years later, the market would still be at the heart of the town’s economy and essential to its very identity.

The town grew around the market, which continued to trade down the high street, beneath the Old Grammar School, at the Town Hall and on the town square on Tuesdays and then Saturdays for centuries, until in 1903 the cattle market and a covered market was established on what is now Sainsbury’s car park.

In 1993 the area was redeveloped to create St Mary’s Shopping Centre and the indoor market that you see today was built.

Eight centuries after it was formed, the market is operated by Harborough District Council, which acknowledges the key role it continues to play in the town.

Cllr Phil King, Leader of Harborough District Council said: “This is a hugely important milestone; the market has been the beating economic heart of the town for 800 years and we are honoured to be the current custodians. The market remains important to shoppers today, as we have seen during the pandemic, it provided a crucial role enabling residents to access food supplies. This week we hope people enjoy the events we have planned and come along to visit the market to see what we’re doing.”

The market through the ages has been a place to buy, to sell, a place for entrepreneurs, and for business start-ups, but at its heart, it is a place for the community to come together.

The indoor market continues to thrive. At present, there are between 100 to 150 businesses trading at the indoor market each week, including several eateries, and a weekly Antiques and Craft Market.  Recent feedback shows that approx 200 people are employed, whilst gross sales are approx £5M per annum.

Over recent years the market has hosted the BIG Weekend comedy shows, has seen ‘dinosaurs’ roaming the halls, held Easter bonnet competitions, regularly hosts school visits, and has won numerous retailer awards including Britain’s Best Small Indoor Market in 2016.

There will be a markets trail guided walk on Friday 10 September at 7pm and Saturday 11 September at 4pm – visit www.visitharborough.com/walks

Harborough Market currently open Tuesday to Saturday 8am to 4pm, and on Sunday 10am to 3pm for its popular Antiques Market, with a monthly Farmers Market on the town Square on the first Thursday of the month. To enquire about stall availability at the market, please email market manager Sairah Butt at s.butt@harborough.gov.uk