horse fairs and dealers

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Many towns have a street name indicating the former position of a horse fair. These were commonly moved out of the central market area to a new site on the edge of the town as trade increased during the 18th century. Much information can be obtained from toll books, which were introduced by Act of Parliament in 1555 to reduce the amount of horse stealing. Numerous horse fairs in northern and midland England gained a wide reputation; for example, Penkridge (Staffordshire) was noted for saddle horses, and the horse fair at Horncastle (Lincolnshire) lasted three weeks in August and attracted dealers from all over the country. There were two classes of specialized dealers in the early modern period: the ‘jockey’ or ‘jobber’, who purchased colts from northern breeders (either at the stable or at a fair) and sold them to south‐country farmers, and the dealer in the neighbourhood of London or other large cities, who operated on a much larger scale, especially from the mid‐18th century onwards. Horse dealers had a poor reputation, but only a minority indulged in sharp practices. See Peter Edwards, The Horse Trade of Tudor and Stuart England (1988). Horse fairs declined with the coming of the railways, though that at Appleby (Westmorland) is a notable survival.

Subjects: History.

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