From at least the 1250s, Lymington was given the right to hold a weekly market and two annual fairs, its wide straight High Street an ideal place for the stalls. People from the surrounding towns and villages could bring their animals, produce and fish to sell and trade and buy more specialist goods provided by Lymington’s makers and craftspeople. The market mainly sold live and dead stock from wooden stalls called shambles. Fish was also sold ‘wet’, salted, dried or smoked. Other stalls offered cloth, clothing, pots and pans and leather goods. Gradually demand for such services on a more than weekly basis led to the creation of permanent shops selling goods all week round.
The mayor and burgesses were responsible for regulating the market. Standard measures were introduced in England in 1215 and in Henry VII’s reign an act required officially approved and stamped (sealed) measures to be provided for use in every town. In 1652 John Colchester was fined 3s 4d for using ‘unjust’, that is unsealed, weights.
According to David Garrow, writing in 1825, the market was well attended and “amply supplied with meat, poultry, butter, vegetables and other necessaries, at reasonable prices. The only defect experienced here is fish, the want of this commodity is severely felt and generally complained of. At certain seasons, we have mackerel, herrings, plaice, hake and flounders; but salmon, cod, turbot and other choice fish are very rarely to be met with and when so, at exorbitant prices.”
Events on the High Street
Since Lymington received its charter in the 12th century the High Street has been the beating heart of the town. As well as being home to the market, shops and businesses that helped the town thrive, the High Street has also provided the setting for processions and ceremonies that marked local traditions and nationally significant events.
Every Whit Sunday, for example, nearly everyone in Lymington used to turn out for the Hospital Sunday parade. It was held to raise money for Lymington Hospital and members of the public were urged to donate to the cause. One local boy, Charlie Doe, went round with his collecting tin tied to the end of a long pole, from which there was a fabric chute to a receptable at the bottom, so people watching from their windows could make contributions too.
Following the Second World War, Lymington carnival became a major event, with local organisations and businesses keen to get involved and provide floats that advertised their services.
The High Street has also played host to street parties, circus processions, civic announcements, Jubilee celebrations and Remembrance days – many of which continue to this day.