Colne – A Market Town

Markets were probably held in Colne as early as the reign of King Henry I (1100-35). King Henry was the youngest son of William the Conqueror.

Colne Cattle fairs were a feature of the town for centuries. The original Markets & Fairs Charter was Granted to “Coln” by Henry I in 11201

By 1332 tax returns show that other trades were emerging: a wainwright, a fisher and a hunter. By 1425 there are also mercers, butchers, a tanner & several brewers. It is likely that these developments were stimulated by the acquisition of a weekly “market” and annual fair(s)2.

Its most likely that the earliest trades were conducted on Sundays, around the Parish Church.

Later, when Wednesday became established as the market day, the market was moved to the market place and a market cross was erected. It is possible that this market cross was removed from the churchyard in the 17th century.

By the 15th century, Colne was more of a trading centre than a farming community and the town had emerged as the market town for the nearby growing villages. These markets were first mentioned in 1588, but were of early medieval origin 3.

On Monday 25th November 1822, the market cross was removed from the main street.

A complaint was made that there was insufficient room for the coaches to turn, a second that idlers of the market place, congregating on its steps were, in a double sense, a standing nuisance.4

At this point, the Colne cross disappeared.

Picture stalls on the streets all around Colne …on Church Street, Market Street, Dockray street etc.

Cattle fairs were held on the last Wednesday of every month 5 and the last cattle fair was held in Feb 1897. The “Jews Alley” stalls and the street stalls were all cleared in 1897, to improve hygiene.

{6} suggests that the Colne Cattle market was held every Friday. Cattle were driven into the town & sold in the street. They were tethered to any pillar or post and the churchyard railings were very handy …!

A new market hall opened on Dockray Street on 26th March 1898. It was subsequently enlarged in 1901 and 1921. 

In 1909, Colne Literary & Scientific Society set about collecting pieces of the old market cross and then restoring it. 

On 13th July 1935, the market was totally destroyed by fire.

A new market hall was built on the same site as the original market hall and it re-opened on 16th October 1937. The market hall on Dockray Street finished trading on 14th April 1973.

The current market hall was built c1973. Spook (outdoor) market opened up in 1977, next to the current market hall. The market cross has been moved several times, but was last relocated to next to the current market hall. At the last relocation, sealed time capsules where placed in the centre of the cross in an attempt to preserve some 20th century artefacts.

The market hall on Dockray Street was subsequently replaced by the Kippax factory. After a period of relative disuse, the he factory is now being renovated to house a roller rink, pool tables, arcade, airsoft, bar & grill etc. This will be called Earnie’s and, if all goes to plan, it is scheduled to open in April/May 2019.

1“Images of England” (G.Crambie), Page 11.
2 “The History of Colne”, Page 16.
3 “History of Lancashire” (A.Crosby)
4 “Annals of Colne”, Page 203.
5 “Colne Through Time”, G. Cranbie
6 “Old Colne” (J. Bentley), Pages 14-16.
7 Old photo painting by E.Stowe c1780.

Many thanks to Elaine Watson for her hard work in researching this little project …

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About Naz Alam 293 Articles
Naz is well known in the local community as a photo journalist. He is group creator for 'Colne Talk' - a Facebook Community Group which has approx 20K members. He also runs multiple Facebook pages for the local community & local business, such as 'Visit Colne'.