History of the market


In 1205, by Charter of King John, the Bishop of Rochester was granted permission to hold a market in Bromley on every Tuesday.

Originally in Latin, the 1205 text translated as:

The King to the Sheriff of Kent. Know ye that we have granted our venerable Father (Gilbert de Glanvill) Bishop of Rochester that he may have a Fair at Stode every year to continue for two days, to wit, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the day following , and that he may have a market at Brumlegh (Bromley) every Tuesday throughout the year, so nevertheless that such Fair and Market be not to the injury of the neighbouring Fairs and Markets.  And therefore we command you cause the same to be proclaimed throughout your Bailiwick.

Witness Ourself at Canterbury the 19 of July. By the Justiciar

In 1447 King Henry VI granted a revised charter changing the market day to every Thursday. Being granted a Royal Charter meant that no other market could take place within 6 and two third miles on the same day as the Charter Market, a distance based on how far a shepherd could drive his flock of sheep to market in one day.

Again, originally in Latin, the 1447 text translates as:

25 and 26 Henry Sixth A.D. 1447

To the pious Bishops of Rochester and to the Archbishops, Bishops and all and each.

We the King send greeting.

We have also granted to the same present Bishop and to his successors that they may hold a Market on their Manor of Bromley, to be held on Thursday of every week; also a fair every year in the Town, on the same spot, with the (right to exact tolls and impose a charge on the erection of stalls) of the same, to last during three days, namely the day of St James the Apostle and the preceding and following days, notwithstanding the he holds within the aforesaid Manor a certain other Fair on the day of St Blaise and the following day.  Provided only that this market and Fair be not to the detriment of neighbouring markets and fairs.

Given under our hand at Westminster.

July 20 1447

The market was first held at Bromley Manor and then moved to Market Square where Market House was built in 1729 and became the focus of the local population on market and fair days.  Market House was a timber building with a red tile roof; a meeting room on the first floor could hold around 200 people and was also used as a court room.

The fairs were held twice a year in February and August (February and July prior to the reform of the calendar in 1752).  Originally a means of interchange for horses, cattle and agricultural produce, the fairs became occasions when the Market Square was crowded with booths of various kinds, menageries, sideshows, whilst plays or tragedy, comedy and farce succeeded each other at about half hourly intervals.

The old Market House was demolished in 1863 by the Lord of the Manor of the time, Coles Child, to be replaced with a gothic red brick Town Hall, housing a police station, a fire station, and a large upper room for civic meetings.  At the same time the fairs were discontinued, partly as the new Town Hall had a footprint almost three times the size of the Market House which meant the area could no longer afford the space for the fairs, but also as they were considered to attract unruly elements.  The Market continued to operate weekly outside the Town Hall.

One of the conditions of the Charter, was that it would be revoked if the market ceased to be held. Around January 1859, for reasons unknown, there was a brief period of interruption of the market and the Charter ceased to be valid but was revived shortly thereafter in February 1859 via a special permit from Queen Victoria; it is by virtue of that permission that the Charter Market still survives.

The Market remained in Market Square until 1933 when increased road traffic and highway improvements saw the Town Hall be demolished and the Charter Market move to the Corporation Depot on Station Road in 1933, later the car park by Bromley North station.

In July 2012 the Charter Market was relocated to the southern end of the pedestrianised High Street to join the weekly Arts and Craft and Farmers’ market that operated every Friday and Saturday.

In October 2018, as part of the Bromley Town Centre redevelopment, the market was returned to the northern end of the pedestrianised area, running from Market Square down to Churchill Theatre, where it currently operates.