Harborough Museum

Cattle Market Key

Cattle Market Key

Harborough: a bustling market town for over 800 years

Written by our volunteer, Susan Hammond.

Harborough has officially had a market since 1203 when the King granted the town a royal charter.

On market day the town was swamped with stalls and animals tethered and penned along the streets. Cattle gathered near today’s Angel Hotel many chained to posts still standing on the High Street.

More than 2000 beasts roaming the streets disrupted daily life considerably! Pedestrians were in danger of being trampled and piles of dung covered the town! The market ultimately moved to a site off Springfield Street as a result of public health concerns.

Cattle Market, around 1900
Photo of the weekly cattle market, taken  around 1900.

A new market for Harborough

On April 14th, 1903, the new cattle market was opened and this silver key presented to J. L. Douglass Esq. (Chairman, Market Harborough Urban District Council). It’s currently displayed in the museum’s ‘Introduction to the Town’ case.

The Settling Rooms are the only remaining part of the market. This building where farmers once settled their accounts with the market authorities, socialised and got refreshments, is now listed, and stands resplendent in the centre of Sainsbury’s car park!

Cattle Market Key
The Cattle Market Key

So where have all the cattle gone?

In 1992 the cattle market moved to its present location near Foxton. The old site was redeveloped to create St. Mary’s Shopping Centre and the new market hall.

Next time you’re in St Mary’s Place look for the brick sculpture on the wall of Sainsbury’s – a visual reminder of Harborough’s once thriving livestock market.

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Logos for the partners of Harborough Museum including Harborough District Council, Leicestershire County Council, Market Harborough Historical Society and supported by Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity

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