Unique piece of Swindon's history goes under the hammer

By Staff Reporter - 24 March 2020

Heritage

By William Cole

A unique 400-year-old piece of Swindon’s trading history has gone under the hammer for £7,500.

Letters Patent signed by King Charles I granting powers ‘to have & to hold within the town of Swindon one Markett every Monday in the week for ever’ went to auction at Bonhams in London last month.

The lot, which was part of the auction house’s Fine Books and Manuscripts sale, was addressed to notable Swindonian Thomas Goddard, whose family owned several large manors across Wiltshire.

The extremely rare letter is embellished with a portrait of the Stuart-period King and contains an impression of the Crown’s Great Seal in brown wax attached on silk cords. 

Translated from Latin, the text reads: ‘Together with the Court of Piepowder to be helde & kept & to be continued the whole day at the said Markettes & Faires with all Liberties, Free Customs Tollage Stallage Pickage Fines Amerciments, And all other proffitts or any other profit whatsoever belonging hapning & arriseing to the Said Markett or Court of Piepowder.’

Written in 1626, the letter also allowed for ‘two Faires there yearly’ for ever, with these fair to be held on the second Monday in May and December.

Much of Swindon’s prosperity had, before the creation of the Great Western Railway and the new town, come from livestock markets, with references to trading in the area dating back to 1336.

In 2017, Swindon’s tented market for independent sellers closed its doors for the last time, with the latest plans from developers indicating it would be turned into a series of shops and restaurants.

The letter performed well at auction, reaching the midpoint of its £4,000 - 8,000 estimate following a flurry of activity from telephone bidders, with fees bringing the total to £7,562.

It was revealed that the lot was being sold by a local man, but the winning bidder’s identity remains unknown.

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