Angmering's Ancient Market and Fair

According to the Centre for Metropolitan History, the markets and fairs of medieval England served as one of the densest and most highly developed systems for the regulation and promotion of trade in Europe. Many markets and fairs were well established by the year 1100, peaked around 1250-1300, and were on the decline by 1350, largely as a result of population decline caused principally by the Black Death.

A "Market" has been defined as a trading institution held weekly, usually on a set day. Markets generally provided the opportunity to buy and sell staple items of diet such as grain and dairy products.

A "Fair" has been defined as a trading institution held annually, usually on a set date and normally associated with the feast of a particular saint. Fairs generally provided the opportunity to buy livestock, farming equipment, hides, skins and cloth.

The majority of markets and fairs were established by a grant which usually took the form of a charter granted by the King. Angmering was no exception. In fact it was the parish of East Angmering that was granted a Charter on 15 January 1384 to hold a Saturday market in the 'town'. King Richard II granted the Charter to his cousin, Richard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, who held Angmering for the King. The Charter for the fair was granted on the same date - to be held on 29 June each year, the date representing the vigil and feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. The vigil was probably held on 28 June.

Granting of Charters in 1384 put the market and fair onto a firm footing and undoubtedly financially benefited the Earl of Arundel and Surrey. However, markets and fairs may well have been held in Angmering prior to that date. In 1274, Edward I commissioned a survey enquiring into usurpations and abuses by sheriffs and their subordinates. The resulting document was known as "Rotuli Hundredorum" or "The Hundred Roll". From what remains of the Sussex Roll, there is an entry that reads "The said steward released from the prison of Arundel without trial or surety two thieves arrested at Angmering fair and imprisoned at Arundel". This therefore suggests that a fair had been operating in Angmering for more that 100 years before the 1384 Charter was granted.

The next reference we find is contained in the Fitzalan Survey of about 1405 which records the "fair-courts" in the Honour of Arundel and states "At Angmerynge on St. Margaret's Day, and on the feast of Peter and Paul". (SRS Vol. 67)

Little is known of Angmering's market and fair after that date but it appears the fair was still in being in 1705 as the Probate Inventory of wheelwright Anthony French in that year records items of wattles and trestles "for the faire". The reference to wattles may indicate that livestock was being penned at the fair, presumably for sale purposes.

Somewhere over the years, however, the date of the fair slipped from 29 June to the end of July. In his 1813 survey for the Board of Agriculture, the Rev. Arthur Young identifies 31 July as the date for Angmering fair but makes no mention of the Saturday market. In Dallaway and Cartright's "History of the Eastern Division of Sussex" published in 1835, they state "the market is totally disused; but a fair is now held on the last day of July" (FitzAlan MSS F.3 Ann. 1071).

Angmering also hosted the district hiring fair which gives some indication of its earlier importance. The possible amalgamation of the hiring fair may have been a reason for the original fair's removal from the end of June until the end of July. At these hiring fairs, labourers of various occupations were hired for the ensuing 12 months. However, the Agricultural Revolution and other factors ended the hiring fair by about 1835. Notwithstanding that, an annual fair continued in Angmering up until the 1930s but it had changed into a pleasure event. In its final location, it was held in a field where Hillside Crescent is today. A previous location had been in a field at the top of the Arundel Road just prior to its descent into Hammerpot.

Neil Rogers-Davis

Page updated: 27 April 2004