On 23 August 1199 King John granted the abbot of St Albans the right to hold a weekly market every Thursday in Barnet. For the king, granting such charters was a useful way of raising cash, but he and his leading tenants were also keen to stimulate trade and economic growth.
Many markets were founded at this period, and those like Barnet with good locations usually flourished, bringing continuing profit both to the lord of the manor and to local inhabitants. As we have seen, the market gave Chipping Barnet its name and distinctive urban character:

The original market place was at the top of the hill, where the road junction also provided a conveniently wide area, even larger before the church was added, probably in the 13th century. Other buildings, permanent stalls and eventually the market hall, then began to cluster against the church, forming a Middle Row with narrow streets either side.

Middle Row was demolished in 1889/90, but even today it is easy to see why the stretch of High Street along the church's eastern side was long known as 'the squeeze', 'the bottleneck' and 'the narrow neck'.
The market day was changed to Monday in 1588 and then to Wednesday, probably in the mid-18th century. In the mid-19th the site was moved off the main road and into a space adjoining St Albans Road, and an extra market day, Saturday, was added in 1960.The bare details, and even a visit to today's market, give little sense of the sights and smells of the medieval market place. Local people came to buy and sell food and pottery, but the market was also one of the major trading centres ringing London, selling cattle and livestock, wool and hides, corn and other grain, in quantities far beyond local needs.

Here country drovers and carters sold their stock on to London dealers and although some animals were driven on, others were fattened up and slaughtered by local butchers, so that Barnet had its Shambles. It was also involved in even wider trade. in 1333 Barnet was one of the 32 manors which supplied the prior of the Hospitallers (one of the" military religious orders initially founded to help recapture the Holy Land) with 380 horses, 399 oxen, 572 cows, 137 calves, 1,201 pigs, 10,353 sheep, 2,620 lambs, 40, sacks of wool, and 200 marks-weight of silver –vessels for trade to merchants in Florence.

After 1539 the new lay lords of the manor were equally eager to profit and in 1588 Queen Elizabeth (who, like King John did a lot of this) granted a new charter renewing the market and adding an annual fair.

The market house, at the southern end of Middle Row, was probably built soon afterwards. William Linacres, citizen and haberdasher of London, bequeathed £5 towards its construction in 1588 and Robert Searche of Barnet bequeathed 5s to glazing one of its windows in 1595.
It was typical of its kind, timber-framed, open on the ground level and with a large room on the upper floor supported on twelve timber posts and reached by an external staircase.

By the mid-19th century the ground floor had been walled, and it was later used as a shop.
It perished with the rest of Middle Row. The 1588 move to a Monday market seems to have been particularly helpful to Barnet's role as a meat provider. In 1592 the inhabitants of Leighton Buzzard complained that it was forestalling their own Tuesday one and a draft parliamentary bill, never implemented, changed it back to Thursday. More seriously the Court of Aldermen in London ordered in 1597 that "the Wardens of the Companye of Butchers shall presentile attend Mr Recorder for his advize in a cause towching a market of Cattell kepte at Barnett to the preidudice of the markets within this City".

The London butchers then began to persuade drovers to drive the cattle in closer, Barnet protested, and in 1630 the butchers denied to the Court of Aldermen that this bypassing was making beef dearer. They also remarked that there was still plenty of corn and coal to be had there but the meat must have been central since in 1631/2 "the restoring of Barnet Market" surfaced in the House of Lords and in 1636 the Privy Council ordered the Middlesex Justices of the Peace "to consider the consequences of the overthrow of Barnet Market"', noting that "the object of the butchers was to discontinue Barnet Market and to establish in lieu thereof a new Monday market in West Smithfield".

All that was new in this was the day, since Smithfield had had cattle markets and fairs for centuries, but it seems to have been effective, and Smithfield soon afterwards largely superseded Barnet Market for cattle.
Pigs may have been brought in to help fill the gap; pig drovers were robbed en route to Barnet in 1682; a stretch of the hill up into the town was known as Hoggy Lane from the 17th century, and directories of 1823 and 1831 refer to the market's sales of pork and pigs. But probably by 1839, and certainly by 1850, the market had expired, killed off not only by Smithfield but also by the increase in coach traffic.
Ironically, though, just at the point when we know that coaches had killed the market, the railways slaughtered coaching. The London-Birmingham railway line opened in 1838, with instantaneous effect even before the Great Northern Railway mainline through Barnet followed in 1850. Coaches rapidly vanished, and drovers, animals and markets could reclaim the streets, although the hygienic disadvantages of a town-centre location remained obvious.

At some point in the mid-19th century the lord of the manor finally sold the market, apparently to local auctioneers. By the mid-1860s the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey shows Market Place next to the Green Man at the junction of St Albans Road, and it was presumably here that the first re-established cattle market was held in 1869 (not, as used to be thought, 1849). The present market site, almost next door, came into operation in 1874, and until the 1940s the cattle market remained very lively. Thereafter various changes - increased regulation of slaughtering, butchers preferring to buy ready processed meat from wholesalers, fewer local farms - combined to hasten its decline, and the last cattle auction was held on 19 August 1959. The gates to the cattle pens and the weighbridge were sold, and the
cleared site became a general, and still flourishing, stall market.

MARY PAYNE'S PLACE From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th the market was more exclusively concerned with cattle than previously, and this may explain the success of a supplemental market at Mary Payne's Place, on the opposite, eastern, side of the High Street just north of Bath Place, specialising in fruit, vegetables and flowers brought in from the surrounding countryside. Also known as the Poor Man's Market this too operated on a Wednesday but also on Saturdays when it stayed open until 11 in the evening allowing men who were still able to do so to collect provisions for Sunday lunch. It may have been started by ex-servicemen after World War I and closed either in 1929 when John Swain's wanted to expand over the site or within the following decade.

Barnet Market now have their own web site with more history and an update on what is happening to the market. Go to

ould like to give them a name check