IT was once a vibrant nerve centre of medieval commerce and renowned as a major Scottish trading post since the 12th century.
But the onset of the First World War is thought to have sounded the death knell on Haddington’s famous market – ending almost eight centuries of street merchantry as fixed shops replaced open-air bartering.
Now, decades after it fell into decline, the age-old bazaar is set to be revived as part of a campaign to breathe new life into the East Lothian town.
The revamped market will be hosted next Saturday on the cobbled stones of the High Street, with 20 stalls brimming with crafts and local produce.
It follows the success of the Haddington Farmers’ Market, established in 2000, and could be held weekly or fortnightly if a trial is a hit.
Pat Lemmon, of Haddington Events Group – the body spearheading the revival – said: “This has a direct line [to the past] in that it is hoped this pilot event will re-introduce regular markets, of perhaps all different types, into this historic market town.
“We, Haddington, are truly once again Haddington, The Market Town.”
Anointed a royal burgh by King David I, Haddington was afford the right to hold markets which would have been jealously guarded. Each market-holding burgh was obliged to mount a Market Cross and while most in the time of James III would bear the image of a unicorn, Haddington bucked the trend by using a goat.
Haddington’s grain market was considered the largest in Scotland in the 13th century and 600 years later was said to be “still occupying the premier position”.
Eilean Madden, archive and local history assistant at East Lothian Council, said newspaper cuttings and county records fail to pinpoint when the markets stopped. “It was probably a gradual process as shops were established and they could supply people with eggs, cheese, butter etc whenever needed, rather than having to wait until market day,” she said.
“There was still a need for the Corn Market but as a separate entity. I would have thought that the First World War would have been the final blow to the other markets, but I cannot find any references.”
Bill Rarity, of Haddington’s History Society, said the reintroduction of the market was “very important”.
“We are going back to the future with this,” he said. “The problem recently has been that Haddington has become more of a commuter or dormitory town than the market town it originally was.”
The market plan is part of a wider vision to revitalise Haddington after it was previously branded a “glorified car park” and a town centre report indicated that at least ten businesses could consider closing within three years.
East Lothian Provost Councillor Ludovic Broun-Lindsay said: “I hope it is a seed that will germinate and grow into a mighty tree. I’m sure it will bring people into the town, and while there will be some traffic disruption by closing lanes we hope people will bear with us.”
Haddington Market will launch next Saturday at 10am.
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