Before looking at how local markets developed though this period it is reasonable to first define the function of a local market. A point that should be noted is that the story of the English local market is very much linked to the development of the English Economy. Pounds, maintains, that the function of local market was to be a place were perishable every day good could be bought and sold. These everyday goods were things such as foodstuffs and some types of livestock such as live chickens, piglets and sheep.
At the start of the 12th century many local markets in England, were held on a Sunday, outside the local church; this was because Sunday was the only day of the week that the peasants were free from their feudal obligations. It was normally held outside the church because this was commonly an enclosed area, and therefore protected. Bracton stated that the area a local market served was roughly a six and two third mile circle. This would mean that if we looked at the market town of Petersfield in Hampshire, (which dates form the 12th century), it served in a westerly direction the villages of Langrish, East Meon, West Meon, Steep, Sheet, Sheet marsh, Froxsfield, Privitt, Colmore, and Burton, a total of ten villages. (See O.S. Pathfinder map 1265). These villages are known to have been in existence due to archaeological remains and Domesday Book references.
According to Britnell, the legal concept of a market was blurred till around the thirteenth century as the economy was still very much barter based. He even states that there was no English word for a market in the eleventh century. (Britnell R) At the end of the 11th century England and most of northern Europe still used various systems of barter to run their economies. In England the silver penny was the main coin this though was only used for large transactions such as the buying of a suit of armor. In the later 13th century we start to find many agricultural workers now paying merchants and tradesmen with coinage, this show the development of the English economy. (Harding A 1993, P-109) This change might have something to do with the change from using surf labor to using workers who had their duties commuted in return for money; many of these worker also paid a form of rent.
For a market to have a legal identity it had to be owned by someone or a corporation, this person or corporation had to grant the market a charter. The local magnates or the crown granted many of these charters. A charter would then define when and where the market was to locate. It might also stipulate certain restrictions on the market, such as not opening during the time of a fair. The charter also might state the weights and measures to be used within the market for some goods, one example of this, being the pint measure of wine during 1399 in Aberdeen where a short measure, often resulted in fines being charged. (Ewan, 1990 p-67) The market reeves or burgesses of the town enforced these rules. These trade officials were responsible for the collection of rents and tolls on the stallholders for the owner of the market. The rents of the market at Yaxley in Northamptonshire were 2d for a cartload, 1d for a packhorse load, and 1/2d for a man load during the twelfth century. (Poole A.L. 1993 P-5) Any alteration of a market's charter required royal assent, from the 11th century onwards in England. Pre 1285 many markets were held within church grounds on a Sunday this though was discouraged by Pope Innocent III as a result may of these markets moved to the center of town or on to the main streets and normally to a Tuesday. From the end of the 13th century trade in England started to fall off this was due to the continual wars she involved in, till about 1500. From about the later 1340's effect of the Black Death, which reduced the population by about one third, thoughout Europe, this caused trading conditions to go from bad to worse. Many of the less important local markets started to fail because of this down turn in trade, it was an almost Darwin like, in effect. It was also in this era that agriculture started to move away from the growing of grain, and more towards the farming of sheep for wool. This change effected the local markets as merchants bought mainly from source rather then at market.
Therefore it can be said that the local market developed from a small gathering outside the local church in the 11th century, to a sophisticated 15th town institution, that was well regulated. It not only made profits for the trader but also the town and its lord and also the crown.
Bibliography Britnell R. The commercialization of English society
Ewan E Town life in fourteenth century Scotland (Edinburgh 1990)
Green J.R. Town life in the 15th century Vol.-2 (London 1894)
Harding A England in the thirteenth century (Cambridge 1993)
Poole A.L. Domesday to Magna Carta 2nd Ed. (Oxford 1993)