The First Chapter
Barnet Market is over 810 years old. On 23rd August 1199 King John issued a charter for a market in Barnet to the Lord of the Manor, the Abbot of St. Albans, John de Cella. One day per week only – Thursdays. Barnet Market’s charter is one of the earliest recorded.
Just a Fork In The Track
The first market was located at the point where the High Street meets Wood Street today at what was then a fork in the track. In those times a market was known as a Chepe (the word derives from Anglo Saxon) or Cheap hence Chepynge or Chipping Barnet. The settlement of Barnet gradually developed around this fork after the charter was granted. The medieval market grew up in this location and occupied the large triangular space to the south of St. John the Baptist Church. The first church on this site is recorded as circa 1250.
The first reference to Chipping Barnet was made in 1329, so we can reasonably assume that by the early 14th century Chipping Barnet had become a successful market town. The Market thrived until around 1350 when it faced many difficulties, not least the Black Death, which very nearly finished it. Trading appears to have continued but probably at a much reduced level until the 16th century when there was a change of ownership. In 1539 commissioners for Henry VIII took over the Market and it remained in Crown hands until it was sold for the incredible sum of one thousand six hundred and ninety six pounds eleven shillings and nine pence to John Goodwin and John Maynard, a rascally pair of property speculators. Maynard was actually a Crown Surveyor. £1,696.11s.9d is over 8 million pounds today!
A New Charter
On 6th February 1588 a new Barnet Market charter was issued by Queen Elizabeth I to the then Lord of the Manor, Charles Butler. The charter included a fair and the market day was changed to a Monday. By the end of the 16th century Barnet was indisputably London’s main meat market. Thousands of animals were driven to Barnet and many butchers, slaughterhouses and drinking houses grew up around what had started as a fork in the track. The Market continued with various ups-and-downs for another 50 years but by 1636 London’s main meat market had moved to West Smithfield. By 1665 the coaching era was about to begin and in 1687 Richard Haleys and Thomas Marriot bought the Manor of Barnet and held it in trust for John Nicoll of Hendon Place. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Barnet Lords of the Manor continued to hold the rights to the Market.
The Market thrived until around 1850 when the location of the medieval Market place started to become redundant. This was mostly due to the massive increase in coaching traffic travelling north through Chipping Barnet and the coaches could not easily pass through the centre of the Market.
By 1865 the Market was forced to move from its location in front of the Church to a new site near the junction of the High Street and New Road (now called St. Albans Road) An assemblage of buildings known as Middle Row grew up in the triangle where the medieval market place had been. The narrow passage known at the time as ‘the squeeze’ between St. John the Baptist Church and the High Street is still in existence. Middle Row was demolished in 1889 after a fire. The opportunity was taken to widen the road but ‘the squeeze’ itself was never widened.
Between 1869 and 1874 it is believed that William Kemp bought the rights to Barnet Market from the then Lord of the Manor. On 14th May 1878 Mr. Kemp sold these rights to James Harland (of the company Harland & Son). In 1899, following the death of his father, Marchant Harland, James Harland’s son, took over the running of what had once again become a flourishing Cattle Market.
In the early years of the twentieth century a complementary open-air Stall Market was established at (Mary) Payne’s Place (where Bath Place is now) in the High Street, but in 1929 this was closed down. The Cattle Market however continued to flourish.
In November 1902 Crawter & Lawrence of Cheshunt purchased the Cattle Market following the death of Marchant Harland. John Harding Young, articled pupil to John Crawter and aged only 18, took over running it.
On 28th April 1910, John Harding Young himself purchased the Cattle Market (and continued the trading of Harland & Sons Estate Agents).
Bill Harding Young
In 1932 John Harding Young’s son, William (aka Bill Young), joined the business. Bill Harding Young is a name held in great affection by many people who still live in Barnet. Bill, an estate agent and qualified auctioneer, was utterly dedicated to Barnet Cattle Market and was instrumental in its success over many decades. Bill auctioned thousands of beasts from the St. Albans Road site. By 1949 the Cattle Market had started to decline and Bill Young began to auction other goods as well as livestock. Secondhand furniture was very popular.
40 Successful Years
On 19th August 1959 the final livestock auction took place in Barnet Cattle Market (it is believed that a black and white film of the last day may survive). Bill Young turned the area into a stall market and on August 22nd there were 25 stalls. Later it was not unusual to see 50 or more stalls. Barnet Market Ltd was formed.
A period of uncertainty
In January 1999 Bill Young sold the site to Nigel and Melanie Walsh, the highest bidders in a sealed bidding sale. He included in the sale a clause that required that the site must remain a stall market for 15 years. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh stated at the time that they had no plans to redevelop the site. The 15-year clause ran out in 2014. However, in November 2005 planning consent was granted to Mr and Mrs Walsh for redevelopment of the St. Albans Road site. Consent stipulated that the site must continue in use as a stall market at ground floor level but could have 14 flats above. A basement car park for 27 cars would be required.
In January 2008 Barnet Market moved to a temporary site on Stapylton Road car park to enable the St. Albans Road scheme to be built. The St. Albans Road site was cleared of all the old Cattle Market buildings, but the planned development never happened due to lack of finance. The Market returned to the St Albans Road site in November 2009 which by then had a poor uneven surface and was surrounded by a dismal hoarding. Finally Mr and Mrs Walsh sold the site to UBS (the Swiss bank that, at the time, owned The Spires shopping centre) in December 2011. UBS stated that they would resurface the Market’s site and plans were prepared. However, UBS had their own financial issues which led them to sell both The Spires and the market site to the William Pears Group in May 2013.
A New Beginning
The William Pears Group decided that it was a high priority to improve the St Albans Road site and they pressed ahead with the plans that were originally commissioned by UBS. However, they had to obtain planning consent for the changes, which included a change of use such that the site could be used as a car park on non-market days. Once this was obtained, work started quickly and the Market was moved to the bandstand area outside Waitrose for 5 weeks. Saunders Markets Ltd were contracted to run the Market and they took over for the first day back on the refurbished site which was Saturday, 9th November 2013. There was no official opening ceremony, but Theresa Villiers MP did attend and made a short speech expressing appreciation for the efforts of all those who had helped to bring about the improvements. She, herself, had campaigned over a long period for the site improvements.
Since Mr and Mrs Walsh sold the market site in 2011, the Market has been tied to The Spires and its changes of owner. In 2015, the William Pears Group sold The Spires and with it, the market site, to AIMCO, a Canadian pensions company. AIMCO have employed Hunters Real Estate Investment Managers for the strategic management of their investment, while Savills are responsible for the day-to-day management. After considering their options, the Market’s St Albans Road site has been sold by the owners for the construction of a Premier Inn. Once again, the Market has moved, this time the short distance to the bandstand area between Waitrose and Stapylton Road, where it is more visible.