St Albans Museum & Gallery Exhibition

“The Making of a Market Town”: 7 September to 3 November 2019

In 1553 King Edward VI granted the City of St Albans a Royal Charter, which gave St Albans the right to hold markets.

Today the town has a wonderful new museum and what better time to celebrate ‘the marketplace’, one which continues over 470 years later. The exhibition will explore the market place historically, regional products, trade links and trade routes, and the impact on the community, street names and buildings.

The historical market towns of the East of England, primarily Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire will be the focus. The markets were central features, a square, a rectangle or triangular. Burbage plots with narrow frontages congregated around the market place and main streets.

St Albans became an important local centre of commerce in Hertfordshire with its three Roman roads, linked to London, its later
Grand Union Canal and more latterly rail/road networks.

Cambridge was an important market centre before the Norman Conquest, famous for corn, dairy produce, reeds, coals, salt and foreign merchandise.

Essex has many famous markets: Colchester, Chelmsford, Saffron Walden, all known for specific trades – cheese, flax, wool, corn and saffron.

For both Cambridge and Essex, the waterways, canals and railways contributed to their growth.


The theme is open to individual interpretation and can link to any Eastern Region County: all have a rich tapestry of ‘market place’. We discussed:
• Produce – licensing and local trades
• Transport links – waterways, Roman roads
• Layout – overall shape, awnings, display
• Local characters – past and present, buskers, street vendors
• Historical aspects – Royal Charter, development into regional trade
• Trading links – across counties

Research/Viewing Archives

Sarah Keeling, curator of galleries at St Albans Museum will host a Handling Day at on 24th January 2019 for all members. She will also be doing a presentation.

Refreshments will be provided.

Marketing and Publicity

The museum undertakes to publicise the exhibition on their events page, and on posters outside the building. They will need a press release (which we will produce) and artists’ images/statements by April 2019. The museum has a policy of no selling
from the exhibition but we can put cards or small gifts in the shop. The museum expects all printed materials (labels, interpretation panels, text, logos etc) to be of a professional standard and we will be responsible for this.

Setting up, Hanging and PV

The exhibition will open on 7th September 2019 and run until 3rd November 2019.

Packaging can be stored at the gallery under the display cases. The space allocated to us includes the East and West Wing and the connecting corridor. The rooms have both walls and display cases so can include both 2D and 3D artworks.

The private view will be held on Friday 13th September 2019

Presentation for members

There is a further presentation for members of 12th February 2019 at Braintree museum by Clare Willets based on this exhibition theme ‘The Making of a Market Town’. Clare will show participants photos and exhibits and host a walk around the original market site. 

To apply please complete the form and send it to Carole Nicholls with your remittance of £5 as soon as possible.

Download the form