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Ancient Markets in Wem

Wem was believed to have been granted a charter to hold a Sunday market by King John in AD 1205. However, recent research has suggested that the market predated this reign, and was in fact first held by William Pantulph, Lord of Wem under William the Conqueror. No charter was actually ever applied for, but its holding has been accepted through history. Following the decree of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Islip in the reign of Edward III , Sunday markets were banned and the market was transferred to Thursday, on which day it has been held ever since.
Until the late 20th century, animal markets were held in the Smithfield behind the Castle Inn every alternate Monday as well as in what is now the main town carpark. The Market Hall was the building now used as a church hall at the west end of the High Street (photo right). The original hall was burned down in the Great Fire of 1677. In 1702, it was rebuilt with brick and was completed in 1728. It is a 30 foot long building with 4 archways at the front, which were originally open but have now been bricked up. The street opposite the hall was originally known as New Cripple Street (Old Cripple Street being the area west of castle mound). Its name was changed to Market St., by which name it is now known.

Town Hall

The old Town Hall was built in 1848 with an assembly room holding 300 people. In 1905, it was rebuilt at a cost of 5000, with the foundation stone being laid by Lord Barnard. An assembly room, cheese hall and market hall were included. A cheese fair was held there every 3 weeks. After another fire in 1995, the hall was completely rebuilt with lottery funding as a community centre. The market continued to be held in the rear part of the building. In the early 21st century, North Shropshire District Council decided that it was too expensive to run, and closed it. However, the existence of the market charter (even though no-one can find the actual document!) meant that it had to be opened on Thursday morning for a morning market but was then closed for the rest of the week. This bizarre situation continued until about 2009, when funding from town and county councils, and from the Thomas Adams School helped in its re-development as a media centre for the school and as a community centre for the town. The market and various fairs use the market hall at the rear, which is also used for cinema shows and concerts.

The Town Square

In 2012, a Shropshire Council grant allowed the development of a Town Square between the 'White Lion' and the Morris Centre. This has proved very popular and has allowed the monthly Farmers Market to have a safe and central site. In addition, the weekly town market has expanded. (photographs below)

Other Fairs and Markets

In addition to Thursday Markets, there are a number of fairs which have traditionally taken place. In the 18th century, there were fairs on the 1st Thursday in March, the 6th May and the 29th June, as well as the last Thursday in September. These have now ceased, but the Christmas Fair is traditionally held early in December, and a local organisation, Wem Combine Harvesters, runs a Harvest Market in late September and a Spring Market in late March.

Full details of 21stC. markets can be found by clicking here