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
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