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Grantham is located on the Great North Road, and near the River Witham, which meant that the town had great long-distance connections for trading and communication.

Markets were held in Grantham from a very early date, but no foundation charters exist for those, and the evidence is very patchy. These markets were held by prescriptive right: that is by custom rather than by a Charter granted by the King. Fairs were also held in Grantham. Although both were trading institutions held at regular intervals, there are some important differences between a market and a fair. A market was held once a week on a set day and in a set place. A fair was held annually, on a set date in a set place, and normally associated with the feast of a particular saint, and served a region, not just the local area. A fair might only last one day, or could be over a number of days, ranging from two or three days to a week or more.

A market and a fair were recorded in 1281, and were held by John de Warren, Earl of Surrey.

Later, in 1484, Charters were granted by King Richard III for a market (to be held on a Wednesday) and two fairs (one to be held around Easter, and the other to be held in early December).

There were no other markets within seven miles, which meant that Grantham was a very important centre for local trade. The Market Place itself is sited close to the Great North Road.

Grantham had gilds by the early fourteenth century, which was part of a system of protective tariffs and regulations that had been in existence from the eleventh century. The gilds made sure that there was an adequate food supply if possible, that prices were reasonable and that standards of marketing and manufacture were maintained. It seems that wealthy wool merchants preferred to live in the larger towns in Lincolnshire, like Grantham. The wool and cloth trade was very important in Grantham.

Along with markets and fairs, much of the trade and occupations in towns was based on artisan workshops and small retail shops, and this generated much prosperity.

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Last updated: 3 March 2011

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