IT was very gratifying to attend the market over Christmas and the lights were most impressive.

I overheard someone visiting Salisbury Christmas Markets say how wonderful the market square looked and that our traders offered very good value for money.

One hears so much these days about cutting out the middle man, etc, and it is interesting to note that the position was summarily dealt with in Salisbury as long ago as the beginning of the fourteenth century.

By an agreement between the then bishop and the heads of the city, entered into after one of the many quarrels between the city and the church, no one was allowed to occupy stalls in the market without the licence of the bishop’s steward and the bishop’s approval.

Before the cathedral clock had struck the hour of one, no person was allowed to buy or cause to be bought, any fish, flesh or victuals of any kind that might be brought into Salisbury, nor were they to re-sell them that or the following day.

Such prohibited purchases were to be forfeited and the buyers themselves heavily fined.

If an offence of this character was committed three times the offender was debarred from the right of purchase for a certain period, and strangers for ever.

Anyone going out into the cross-roads to intercept butchers, fishermen and others to make purchases were to be treated as ‘regrators’ within the city itself.

A ‘regrator’ was a person who bought corn and provisions and sold them again in or near the market, and as this had the effect of raising prices it was made a public offence.

‘Forestalling,’ against which provision was also made in some of the early city charters, was the buying up of merchandise on its way to market with the intention of selling it again at higher prices.