THE MEXON STREET MARKET STORY

'Middlewich Mexon Street Market' is an new and exciting partnership between Middlewich Town Council, Middlewich Vision, local partners and participating traders. It is a not-for-profit market and all stall revenue will be used to sustain the market and other market projects and activities.

 

Footfall to Middlewich town centre is crucial. It ensures the survival of our local retailers and enhances our community. For many years, markets have formed an integral part of our high street and have attracted many visitors. The new Mexon Street Market has arisen as a direct result of the previous, privately owned market company pulling out.

It was decided, with the support of Cheshire East Council, to purchase our own stands and hire them out at a much reduced rate. This will give more encouragement to start up businesses and provide additional support to existing traders by reducing their outlay. 

Why Mexon? In early Medieval times, the Kings Mexon market operated on a regular basis in the town. For this new opportunity we wanted to adopt something unique to Middlewich. Therefore, It was decided to modernise the original name and make it our own. 

We look forward to traders, retailers, residents and visitors supporting the market over the forthcoming months and we thank everyone for their valued input which has enabled the 'Middlewich Mexon Street Market' to become a new and welcome addition to our high street.

MIDDLEWICH IN MEDIEVAL TIMES

The  Manor of  Middlewich  belonged  to  the  Earl  of  Chester  and therefore  the  crown, but it was leased out to farmers.  The administration of the town was in the hands of officers, including a chamberlain, steward and bailiff. 

Middlewich - A Medieval Settlement

The  focal  point  of  the  medieval  settlement  was the  Church  of  St  Michael.  It  is apparent  from  documentary  sources  that  the  streets  surrounding,  and  in  close proximity  to,  the  church – notably  High  Town,  Leadsmithy  Street,  Wheelock  Street, Lewin  Street  and  Wyche House  Lane  – had  all  become  established  by  the  13th  / 14th centuries. (Strickland and Lequette 2008, 75, based on the work by Earl, 1990).

Land holdings in the town between the 13th and 17th centuries  are recorded in the Middlewich  Chartulary  (Varley  (ed)  1941;  Varley  and  Tait  (eds)  1944).  Grants for land in Wheelock Street in the 13th and 14th centuries noted in the chartulary appear to accord with the archaeological evidence of plot formation (Towle and Hayes 2009, 39).

There is no surviving borough charter for Middlewich.  Nevertheless, it was regarded  as  a  borough  and  there  are  frequent  references  to  burgesses  within  the  town  from the  13th  century  onwards  (Stewart - Brown  1925,  111,  115;  Thompson  1981,  3). 

Middlewich  was  granted  a  market  charter  in  1260  and  there  were  two  annual  fairs held in the town (Hewitt 1929, 119).  The hundred courts were held in the town until c1217  when  they  were  transferred  to  Northwich. At  the time  Middlewich  had  one  of  the largest prisons outside Chester (Thompson 1981, 3).

The  town  was  destroyed  by  fire  in  1281,  which  indicates  that  the  main  building material was timber (ibid, 3).  There were also two bridges mentioned early in the 14th century: pons  magnus and parvus  pons .    In  the  17th  century,  they  are  referred  to  as  the Great Bridge  and  the Little  Bridge.  It  is  likely  that  the  site  of  the Great  Bridge  is  that  of the Kinderton Bridge, the present town bridge.  The location of Little Bridge is unknown but thought to be where Maidenhills is.

 

Middlewich town’s economy was dominated by the salt industry (Varley  (ed)  1941;  Varley and  Tait  (eds)  1944) ,  and this was combined with its  role  as  a  market  centre which provided  further  revenue.    A leadsmithy  was  present  in  the  town  before  1316 which,  presumably, produced  lead pans for use in the salt industry.  In the 14th century, shops were built in the town ‘for the use of merchants coming in from outside with their goods’  (Ormerod 1882, 174). 

 

The lord’s hall was built c1334 and this possibly stood on the site of the later market hall.    In  the  mid-14th century stalls in the lord’s hall were leased  to  butchers  and other  merchants.    In  the  15th  century  there  is  reference  to  a  steward  of  the  town (mayor), as well as reference to a doctor .  Other positions in the town include: kennel lookers  who  inspected  the  streets,  watercourses  and  wells,  fire  lookers,  leave lookers,  and  ale  barters,  who  checked  weights  and  measures.    There  were  also various  officials  who  controlled  the  salt  industry,  for  example,  Rulers  of  the Walling and  Steward  of  the  Wych  (Thompson  1981,  3-4).    A  Hall  of  Pleas  is  mentioned  in 1436 -7, the exact location of which is unknown.

 

William Smith, writing at the end of the 16th century, recorded that Middlewich had a market  on  a  Saturday  and  two annual fairs.  He also noted a “broad  place  in  the middest  of  the  town,  in  manner  of  a  market  place,  called  the  ‘King’s  mexon’ ” (Ormerod  1882,  138).   A  plaque  located at  the  site of  the  Mexon, which  lies  just  to the west of St Michael’s churchyard, records that this was where bull and bear baiting was staged until 1834.

 

The remains of a cellared structure predating the town hall (built in 1844) were identified in Hightown, immediately to the north west of St Michael’s Church. This former building, known as the market hall, may possibly be a medieval construction (Gifford and Partners 2003c).

 

St Michael’s Church lies within a triangular  plot  of  land  (COM4),  which  may also have  served  as  the  market  place. The area to the north of the church is broad and wide and this was no doubt the area identified  in  the  16th century as the 'King’s Mexon' in the centre  of  the  town.    It  may even  be  the  site  of  the  market  granted  by  charter  in  1260.    How  the  market  place was differentiated from the churchyard is unclear.  It may originally have been taken out  of  the  churchyard,  or  as  it  fell  out  of  use  the  market  place may  have  been subsumed by an expansion of the churchyard. 

Find out more about Middlewich heritage and events:

Middlewich Heritage Trust

www.middlewich-heritage.org.uk

Contact Details: 01606 833434  |  heritage@middlewich.org.uk

Photos reproduced by kind courtesy of Middlewich Town Council, Allan Earl, Local Historian and Dave Roberts, Editor of the Middlewich Diary

© 2019 Middlewich Mexon Street Market website created by Middlewich Vision Volunteers

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