Medieval Henry III sheep law could hinder City of London’s market relocation plans

Plans to move Smithfield Market (pictured) could be a dealt a blow due to a medieval law  (Getty Images)
Plans to move Smithfield Market (pictured) could be a dealt a blow due to a medieval law (Getty Images)

A law that came into force 775 years ago could be an obstacle to the City of London’s attempts to move its wholesale markets to Dagenham.

A Royal Charter was put in force by Henry III in 1247 banning rivals from opening near Romford Market “within a day’s sheep drive” (6.66 miles).

City of London deposited a Private Bill to Parliament last November seeking approval to move Smithfield and Billingsgate markets to Dagenham Dock.

Its proposed new markets in Dagenham Dock are about 4 miles from Romford Market, putting it within the radius protected by the medieval law.

Though the markets are considered wholesalers, Havering Council is concerned that their relocation will impact local trade, especially if they’re allowed to sell at retail to individuals.

In its petition to Parliament, Havering Council objected to the relocation of the markets on the basis of the Royal Charter that was enforced over 700 years ago.

Havering wants a clause added that would forbid the market from selling at retail to individuals.

The markets will need Parliamentary approval to move to Dagenham.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “We deposited a private bill to Parliament last November for approval to move our historic markets to Dagenham Dock. Subject to Parliamentary consent, Billingsgate and Smithfield will be relocated to the new purpose-built site.”

“We believe that the co-location is the best way of securing the long-term future of the markets, providing market tenants with room for growth and modern, environmentally sustainable facilities fit for the 21st century, while stimulating economic growth in Barking and Dagenham.”

Councillor Ray Morgon, Leader of Havering Council, said: “We support the relocation of a wholesale market to Dagenham and welcome the wider economic benefits for the area, however we understand there will be an element of retail trade which is not written into the bill.

“By Royal Charter of 1247, Romford Market is the only retail market allowed to operate within six and two-thirds miles, and this relocation could cause a potential loss in trade and business to our historic market.

“Whilst we welcome the move, we ask that the bill be redrafted to restrict the relocated markets to wholesale-exclusive trade. We will be happy to discuss the licensing of any retail on site in the same way that we do for other local markets.”