The chairman of Harborough District Council said they were “delighted and privileged” as the Earl and Countess of Wessex paid a special Royal visit to Market Harborough yesterday (Wednesday).
Cllr Stephen Bilbie spoke today after Prince Edward and Countess Sophie made a 90-minute trip to the town as its Tuesday market celebrates its 800th anniversary.
Along with Mike Kapur, the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, and Col Murray Colville, the Vice-Lord Lieutenant, he helped to guide the Royal couple through Harborough Indoor Market after they flew in to the town’s football ground on Northampton Road by helicopter.
Looking happy and relaxed, Edward and Sophie met traders who have worked tirelessly to support their community throughout the Covid pandemic as well as mingling with startled shoppers.
This year marks an historic milestone for the market - the beating heart of the town - as it marks an incredible 800 years in Market Harborough.
Their Royal Highnesses were shown the ‘People’s Gallery’ featuring priceless photographs of the market through the ages.
Cllr Bilbie said: “We're delighted and privileged to receive a visit from TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex as part of our 800th anniversary of the market.
“It was such an exciting occasion and wonderful to see so many people, including schoolchildren, come along to see them.
"Their Royal Highnesses enjoyed talking to some of the market traders and seeing the ‘People’s Gallery’ featuring old photographs of the market through the ages,” said the Conservative councillor for Fleckney.
“They were also very interested in the museum and unveiled a plaque marking this important milestone in the town’s history.”
The Earl and Countess of Wessex also toured Harborough Museum at the Symington Building on Adam and Eve Street.
There Edward and Sophie learned more about the town's deep history and were the first to visit a specially-curated display on Harborough’s Market Charter.
That’s now open to the public.
The county council helped to create the display - and council chairman Cllr Dan Harrison helped to welcome the Royals to the museum.
Cllr Harrison said: “It was a great honour to welcome Their Royal Highnesses to Leicestershire and to have the opportunity to showcase what an important place Market Harborough is historically.
“I encourage the public to visit Harborough Museum for themselves, I think they will be really surprised at some of the things they learn about this beloved town.”
Prince Edward and Countess Sophie then unveiled a new plaque at the Old Grammar School, which was the site of the original butter market.
The plaque showcases the launch of the new Market Harborough historic market trail.
The scheme guides people around the town, highlighting key locations and their importance in the history of the various markets which have operated over the last 800 years.
Mike Kapur, the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, said: “It is always a privilege to receive Royal visitors to Leicestershire - and the visit by The Earl and Countess of Wessex was no exception.
“Their Royal Highnesses were able to not only see how important Market Harborough has been historically, but to view the continued spirit of Market Harborough today through their visit to the 'People’s Gallery' and their engagement with the schoolchildren who came out to welcome them.”
King John granted a royal market charter to the town of Market Harborough in 1204 – but the Tuesday market didn’t begin until 1221.
The market was held in the centre of the town until 1993 when the indoor market, which welcomes thousands of visitors a year, was built.
You can join in the celebrations of Harborough Indoor Market, the town’s history and follow in the Royals' footsteps by visiting the 800th anniversary of the Royal Charter display at Harborough Museum.
Find out more here: www.harboroughmuseum.org.uk/
Copies of the historic market trail leaflet will shortly be available at Harborough Indoor Market, next to the People’s Gallery, from the reception desk on the ground floor of Harborough District Council’s offices in The Symington Building on Adam & Eve Street and from Market Harborough library and Harborough Museum.
It will also be available to download at: https://visitharborough.com/There are also market trail guided walks at 7pm tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm and at 4pm on Saturday.
You can book by visiting: www.visitharborough.com/walks
Harborough Market is open from 8am-4pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 10am-3pm on a Sunday for its popular antiques market.
A popular monthly farmers market is staged on the town Square on the first Thursday of every month.