COLCHESTER has had a market for many centuries, at least as far back as 1189 when the town was granted its first Royal Charter which amongst other things gave it permission to hold a market.

Until 1963 it had been my belief this was always in the High Street, as it is today.

Although over the past half-a-century at different times it has had three other locations (car parks at either end of Culver Street, and in Vineyard Street) before its latest return to its historic location.

What I had not realised until I visited an Essex Record Office event in the Moot Hall last month is in 1813 a market for 52 stalls was established next to and behind the Norman Moot Hall, which is where the current Town Hall is located.

The map illustrating my article shows the layout of this market which had covered stalls, with awnings to protect customers from the rain, and a fountain in the open area between the two facing rows of market stalls.

I had no idea such a market had ever existed.

It closed in 1837. A few years later the Norman Moot Hall was demolished and in 1844 the Victorian Town Hall was built. In 1898 this was demolished, and in 1902 the current Town Hall was opened.

I have not so far been able to find out anything further about the 1813 to 37 market. More research is needed. Did this market replace the one in High Street for 24 years, or did they co-exist? Did stalls at “New Market Place” operate every day of the week?

Hopefully there are historic records somewhere which will answer these questions.

Last month’s display by the Essex Record Office stated: “Plan of New Market Place 1813. Established by the town authorities in 1813, this new location did not prove popular. By 1837 the market had moved back to the High Street.”

It is disappointing Colchester no longer has its own office in the town for its historic records, with Essex County Council deciding several years ago to centralise records at Chelmsford.

While this results in time-consuming journeys, the staff at the Essex Record Office are exceptionally helpful.

The 1813 market map was one of 25 historic maps at the “Colchester on the Map” event in the Moot Hall at which maps going back 400 years were on display, along with six films featuring the town, with the oldest from 1947.

This black and white six-minute film, now in the Essex Police Museum, was titled “Essex from a Police Car: Colchester” and highlighted road safety issues for pedestrians in the town centre. Footage included a two-way High Street and Head Street, St Botolph’s Corner and the Albert Roundabout.

Another was by Colchester photographer Bernard Polley, filmed 40 years ago in colour. It was titled: “What have they done to our town?” I thought: time for a sequel.

There was also a display of “A tour of Colchester through old postcards”, 33 enlarged views from the 19th century including St Runwald’s Church which stood in the middle of High Street (between West and East Stockwell Streets), the Castle before it had a complete roof, and the opening of the town’s tram system on 28th July 1904.

The selection of maps made fascinating viewing. The oldest was a “Map of Essex 1610” including the following statement: “The most antient and fayre Town of Colchester” as described by John Speed who was the most famous mapmaker of Stuart England.

A map of 1622 showed the “Castle Bayley” and “Kinges Meadowe”, while one from 1748 identified three windmills between Mersea Road to Military Road along the line of today’s Camp Folley North and Mill Street.

Thomas Sparrow’s map of 1767 had written on it Colchester “enjoys a fine Healthfull Air, and is well furnished with Good Water & all sorts of Provisions.” Also: “The Principal Manufactory of this Town is Bays & Says & is one of ye most noted places in ye Kingdom for fine Oysters.”

A coloured “Visit Colchester” cycling map, published in 1904 and surrounded by 24 advertisements, stated it provided a “general guide map to the environs of Colchester”.

There were three maps from the Second World War (1939-45) giving details of various locations for the civilian population in terms of information centres, emergency locations such as first aid posts, and one published after the conflict which recorded sites where enemy bombs had been dropped.

Other maps featured the layout of Colchester Garrison and the town centre in the 19th century, brickworks on either side of the railway line to the east of North Station, and one of 1848 showing a confusing patchwork of parish boundaries.

My hope is Essex Record Office will organise further Colchester displays, in Colchester, of the records which by rights belong to Colchester.