Museum shares historical photos of Ely Market and its royal visitors
- Credit: ELY MUSEUM
On April 9 1224, King Henry III of England granted a market to the Bishop of Ely.
Although the market was officially granted in 1224, Ely had been a centre of trade before this too, with a market believed to have begun as early as 1216.
King Henry III, born in 1207, became King of England aged just nine-years-old following the death of his father.
However, the country was ruled by a series of regencies until 1234.
In 1252, King Henry III, accompanied by his son, Prince Edward, visited Ely for the dedication of the church, now Ely Cathedral.
His reign was marked by strife with his barons though. Led by his brother in law, Simon de Montfort, a rebellion of barons was formed against the King’s mismanagement in 1258.
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King Henry III is said to have been concerned that the Isle of Ely might be used a fortress against him and his rule.
So he ordered the Bishop and Prior at Ely to fortify the entrances to the Isle of Ely, primarily at Earith and Stuntney in 1260 which were then guarded day and night.
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By the end of his long reign, civil war gripped the country and those fears were realised.
It was Edward I that later captured Ely Castle in 1267 during the final stages of the Second Barons' War.
King Henry III used ‘Letters Close’ to grant Ely it’s market, which is a type of legal document issued by a monarch or government granting a right, monopoly, title, or status to individuals using a sealed letter.
These letters were personal in nature, and were delivered folded and sealed using a wax seal, in this case with the King’s personal seal, so that only the recipient could read their contents.
They are different to Letters Patent which are open for all to see, as Letters Close were addressed only to specific people and were closed to all except the recipients.
In November 2018, Ely Markets was visited by HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall on their visit to Ely too.
They met local stall holders and tasted some of their excellent food available at the market.