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Event Series Event Series: Historic Thursday Market

Ripon’s Historic Thursday Market

Ripon’s historic Thursday market offers a range of essential goods and groceries such as fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, cheese, fresh eggs, homemade cakes and savoury bakes as well as locally reared meat. You can also buy ladies and gents fashion, bags and scarves, phone accessories and watch repairs, household refillable essentials, fresh flowers, plants and much more.

Watch the Bellman open the market at 11am each Thursday:

In a tradition dating back to the 1300s, Ripon’s Bellman now has a ceremonial role of ringing his bell at 11.00am each Thursday to formally open Ripon’s Thursday market – though trading will have begun much earlier.  He also rings at civic occasions and acts as town crier on other occasions; he rings at the start of the Ripon Racecourse Bell-Ringer Handicap, where he also judges the best-turned-out horse and presents the prizes.

The Bellringer is first mentioned in 1367.  In those days the market sold corn, and farmers from within Ripon could sell their corn as soon as they set up, even as early as 6.00am. Farmers from outside, however, had to wait until midday, when the Bellman rang his bell.

The Bellman also had to collect a handful of corn, known as ‘market sweepings’, scooped from the farmers’ sacks. This was a levy paid to the city’s councillors, who preferred a Bellman with large hands! Other former duties are no longer undertaken by the Bellman; these included keeping the Market Square tidy, making fires for meetings of the council, calling out cautions if a bylaw had been infringed and making announcements in the Square to help husbands sell their wives!

Ripon has been a market town since the 10th century, though its first official market charter was received only in 1108. In the centre of the Market Square rises the obelisk, built in 1702 to designs by architect Nicholas Hawksmoor to replace an earlier Market Cross.  Half the cost was borne by the then Mayor, John Aislabie. On the summit are displayed the Ripon horn and, below it, a Ripon rowel, a reminder that the  city was once famed for making spurs – a rowel is the spiked wheel on a spur.

In the south-west corner of the Market Square lies the so-called Wakeman’s House. The restored remains of a late-16th century building, it was formerly thought to be the home of Hugh Ripley, the last Wakeman and, from 1604, first Mayor of Ripon. His ghost was said to appear at the top window if the hornblowing ceremony was not performed properly. Modern research says that his house was, in fact, a few doors further east.

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