A market may have existed in Croydon as early as the Anglo-Saxon period, but the earliest certain evidence is from 1236-7, when an isolated account roll refers to stallage fees. A market charter was granted to the town by Robert Kilwardby, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1276; and further charters were granted in 1314 by Archbishop Walter Reynolds, and (probably) in c.1343 by Archbishop John de Stratford.
The medieval marketplace, perhaps laid out in 1276, occupied the triangle of land now defined by the High Street, Surrey Street, and Crown Hill. To take advantage of the slope of the ground, it seems that the higher and well-drained east side came to be used for corn-trading, and the lower-lying west side (Butcher Row, now Surrey Street) for trading in livestock, meat, and hides. By the later Middle Ages, however, the open marketplace was becoming infilled with buildings. A building on the east side was bought for use as a market house (mainly for corn-trading) in 1566, and was succeeded by another cornmarket nearby in 1609. The older market house was probably taken over as a general provisions market, and was rebuilt for that purpose (as the so-called Butter Market) in 1708: it continued to be used until 1874.
The charter of 1276 had authorised a weekly market to be held on Wednesdays; that of 1314 a weekly market on Thursdays (probably superseding the Wednesday market); and that of c.1343 a weekly market on Saturdays. The earliest certain evidence for markets being held on Saturday dates from 1595, and market day remained Saturday until the middle of the 19th century. In 1861, however, the cornmarket was moved to Thursday, and was held on that day until corn-trading ended in 1907. A minority of traders, mistrusting the change, continued to hold a rival Saturday cornmarket until 1892. The general provisions market continued to be held officially on Saturdays until 1874, when the Butter Market building closed; and thereafter as an unofficial Saturday street market.
Although much of the old marketplace triangle was built up by the 19th century, a small open space remained in Market Street (immediately behind the Butter Market building), and this was the main focus of street trading. However, in 1893 the entire triangle (by this date known as Middle Row) was comprehensively cleared and redeveloped by Croydon Corporation. This event pushed all street trading activities into Surrey Street.
In 1922, the street market was taken over by Croydon Corporation, and relaunched as a 6-day market (Monday to Saturday), which it remains. Saturday continues to be the most important trading day.
In November 1994 the market received a royal visit from H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales
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