Wolverhampton Markets

Cattle being driven to market through Queen Square, from a print published by Guy Motors Ltd in 1955.

Wolverhampton was a market town from its earliest days.  Though it grew great on wool there was always a large general market serving a large hinterland.  This agricultural connection continued through the industrial revolution and only reduced in scale in the latter half of the twentieth century.  In the 1920s it was still an important function of the town, as the following report shows.

This description of Wolverhampton's markets is taken from:  Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Report on Markets and Fairs in England and Wales, HMSO, 1927, vol.2, Midland Fairs, pp.58 - 59.

"Wolverhampton is a town with a complete system of markets. These are the cattle market, live pig market, wholesale fruit and vegetable market, covered retail market and uncovered retail market. There are also a municipal abattoir, two privately owned cattle markets, a corn exchange and a "hide and skin market." The municipal cattle market, situated within half a mile of the railway stations, is mainly supplied by dealers and has declined in recent years. The two private auction marts, which pay tolls to the Corporation, are typical examples of medium-sized cattle markets in a large town. Supplies for these markets are mainly local and are drawn chiefly from the western side including the Shropshire border. The fat stock is disposed of to local butchers within a radius of 12 miles; about 25 percent is sent to Birmingham. Store stock is not an important trade. The amount of slaughtering in the abattoir is steadily increasing (50,000 head of livestock were slaughtered in 1926), but there are no facilities for a meat market. The Corporation owns a cold store and ice manufactory. A scheme for extending both the cold storage and the abattoir and for providing a wholesale meat market at a total estimated cost of £70,000 has been approved. The live-pig market is important; it is of the same character as the Birmingham pig market, which it antedates by many years. The wholesale fruit and vegetable market is a good example of a medium-sized market of its kind, the arrangements as to entrances and exits, gangways, offices, etc., being well designed. It is found here, as with most markets, that roadways sufficiently wide for horse-drawn vehicles are now barely adequate for motor lorries. When this market was established it was not possible to let all the space to wholesalers, and some was allotted to retailers who still carry on business in this market, which adjoins both the uncovered and covered retail markets. As is usual with covered retail markets in large towns, there is a demand for more space. As far as possible each commodity is sold in a separate portion of the market."

Further information also appears on p156, which lists the total number of various classes of stock passing through each market in a "recent typical year":


cattle: 12,671
calves: 2,000
sheep and lambs: 53,162
pigs: 44,773

By comparing these figures with those for other towns it should be possible to estimate the importance of, for example, Wolverhampton's historic strength, sheep and lambs - though at a quick glance it looks as if pigs were far more important than anything else.

At page 104 further details are given of each market. The information may be reproduced as follows (where u stands for uncovered and c stands for covered):

market area in sq.yds owner or lessee market days character
Cattle Market 9075 u Wton B C Pigs daily; other: Weds Auction & private treaty sales
Retail Markets 5150 c; 2935 u Wton B C Daily General retail produce
Wholesale Meat Market 10 c Wton B C  Daily Meat
Wholesale Produce Market 2611 c Wton B C Daily Auction and private treaty sale of dairy produce, eggs, poultry, fruit and veg.
Auction 500 c; 2600 u Nock & Joseland Wed. Livestock
Auction 414 c; 820 u Walker, Lloyd & Hill Wed. Livestock and poultry
Corn Market   W'ton Corn Market Committee Wed. Corn, hay and straw
Hide and Skin Market   W'ton Butchers' Hide & Skin Co. Ltd. Sat. Auction and private treaty sales of hides and skins

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