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Part 1: The Francis Bedford Topographical Photographs

Part 2: Urban Landscapes and Society: The Warwickshire Photographic Survey from
Birmingham Central Library


The open-air markets have been in this country, at least since Roman Times, Britain’s most durable trading institution.  Birmingham was given A Charter of Marketing Rights in 1166 when Henry II granted this to Peter de Bermingham.  Birmingham has been a marketing town now for over 800 years.

A change in control of the Marketing Rights took place in 1807, when the Town Governors, or, as they were then called, “The Commissioners of the Birmingham Street Act”, contracted for the market tolls.  In 1824 the Commissioners purchased outright from the then Lord of the Manor, Mr Christopher Musgrave, the marketing rights and tolls for the sum of £12,500, and these they controlled until 1851, when, by the Birmingham Improvement Act, the marketing rights and all the powers appertaining to them, together with the rights of the borough, were transferred to the Town Council, in whom they are now vested.  The markets have been greatly extended and improved from time to time.

Smithfield Market was built on this site.  It was constructed at a cost of £2,449, plus the cost of the land and premises which came to £3,223.  It was opened on Whitsun Fair Thursday, 29th May 1817.  The cattle market was previously held in Dale End, the pig market in New Street, the Hay and Straw market in Ann Street, (now known as Colmore Row).  All these markets were transferred to this new market when it opened.  The Hay Market was held on Tuesdays, and the Beast Market on Thursdays.  At the West side of the market was a weighing machine and office, for the purpose of weighing hay and cattle etc. There was a common pound and the Keeper’s House adjacent to the Market place.  The site was adjacent to Jamaica Row, Moat Row and Moat Lane.

Picture:  Smithfield Market, Moat Lane Entrance

A very busy area.  The original Rag Market was held here.  It opened at 1.00pm on Tuesday and Saturday.  The main gate was closed just prior to the opening and a large crowd would be waiting for it to open.  The bell went at 1.00pm and the porter shouted, “Wait for it”, and everyone rushed in.  It was a very popular and busy market area.  At No. 20 was Glover and Burley, at 18 James Baragwanath and Co., Ltd., and at 22-23 Francis Nicholls Ltd., just a few of the Fruit Salesmen in the area.  Period 1930’s.

The images that accompany the above text will be available to view soon.



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