Royal visitors are heading to Market Harborough this morning (Wednesday).
Ultra-tight security is being imposed as scores of extra police are drafted into the town as the royal party arrives to give special celebrations to mark the town’s Tuesday market’s 800th anniversary the royal seal of approval.
The royal visitors – it’s not being revealed who they are for security reasons – will be visiting the indoor market in the town centre and the town’s museum in the Symington Building on Adam and Eve Street.
They will also be shown around the town’s iconic Old Grammar School on the High Street.
And the royal party may also get the chance to do a much-loved walkabout meeting shoppers and local residents in the town centre, it’s understood.
Harborough District Council tweeted this morning: “We are delighted to announce that Royal visitors will be coming to Market #Harborough this morning (Wednesday 8 Sept 2021) for the market’s 800th anniversary celebrations, attending the indoor market, museum and Old Grammar School.”
This will be the first royal visit to Market Harborough for many years, almost certainly the first this century.
A set of special events are being lined up to mark the 800th anniversary of the town’s Tuesday market.
This year marks eight centuries of the much-loved Tuesday mart being held in the town.
And to celebrate a new historic market trail will be launched, along with some special guided walks.
A ‘People’s Gallery’ featuring photographs of the market through the ages, will be “displayed with pride” at the popular indoor market in Northampton Road from today.
Supported by Leicestershire County Council, there will also be a curated exhibition and three display panels at Harborough Museum from today.
The market has been right at the heart of Market Harborough since the deepest Middle Ages.
King John granted a royal market charter to the town of Market Harborough in 1204.
But the Tuesday market didn’t begin until 1221.
That’s the year that the market day was changed from Monday to Tuesday by King Henry III – because a rival market was being held in Rothwell on the same day.
King Henry III ordered the Sheriff of Northamptonshire to close down the Monday Rothwell Market.
But the townspeople refused – so the King changed the Harborough Market day to Tuesday in 1221.
When medieval townsfolk first began buying and selling produce at the market, few would have thought that an incredible 800 years later it market would still be going strong.
Market Harborough grew up around the market.
The mart continued to trade down the high street, beneath the Old Grammar School, at the Town Hall and on the town square on Tuesdays and then Saturdays for centuries.
And then in 1938 the cattle market and a covered market was established on what is now Sainsbury’s car park.
In 1993 the area was redeveloped to create St Mary’s Shopping Centre and the indoor market that you see today was built.
Eight centuries after it was formed, the market is run by Harborough District Council.
Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough council, said: “This is a hugely important milestone.
“The market has been the beating economic heart of the town for 800 years and we are honoured to be the current custodians.
“The market remains so important to shoppers today.
“As we have seen during the pandemic, it provided a crucial role enabling residents to access food supplies,” stressed Cllr King.
“This week we hope people enjoy the events we have planned and come along to visit the market to see what we’re doing.”
The market through the ages has been a place to buy, to sell, a place for entrepreneurs and for business start-ups.
But at its heart, it is a place for the whole community to come together.
“The indoor market continues to thrive.
At present, there are between 100 to 150 businesses trading at the indoor market each week, including several eateries, and a weekly Antiques and Craft Market,” said the council.
“Recent feedback shows that about 200 people are employed, whilst gross sales are approximately £5 million per annum.”
Bang up to date in the 21st century, the market has hosted the BIG Weekend comedy shows and seen ‘dinosaurs’ roaming the halls.
It’s held Easter bonnet competitions, regularly hosts school visits and carried off a string of retailer awards - including Britain’s Best Small Indoor Market in 2016.
There will be a markets trail guided walk on Friday (September 10) at 7pm and on Saturday at 4pm – visit www.visitharborough.com/walks
Harborough Market currently open from 8am-4pm on a Tuesday to Saturday and from 10am-3pm on Sunday for its popular Antiques Market.