A History of the Cattle Market
Livestock had been sold in Kingston’s Market Place on Saturdays since 1603, when James I of England granted the rights to a market for the purpose. The Cattle Market as held on a Monday was only introduced in 1918 (March 12th), to supplement market days on Wednesday, Thursdays and Saturdays providing increased access to the food supply during World War One. Due to increased motor traffic and space requirements, the Monday Cattle Market was moved to the Fairfield site and officially opened by the Mayor, Councillor G D Densham on Monday 20th April 1925.
The Surrey Comet for April 25th describes the new market in some detail. The Fairfield site was five times the size of the Market Place, with pens for sheep and pigs and special sheds for calves. The surface was covered in concrete, with a weighing machine between the enclosures and the selling place through which each animal was passed and their weight shown on a large clock face. There were 80 pens for pigs, 26 for sheep, 400ft of cattle rails, and a shed for dairy cows and calves. A granite run for horses meant that the animals didn’t need to be tested on the roads. Granite sets paved the areas between pens and there was also a toll collector’s office and toilet. The whole market was enclosed by 6ft high iron fencing, and cost the borough about £6000 to build.
This market proved so popular it was expanded in size in 1926, but its success was short lived due to rapid housing and road expansion in the interwar years which swallowed up the farmland surrounding Kingston. The Second World War provided a much needed boost to the market as it was designated an official trading place by the Ministry of Agriculture. After the war, there was another rapid decline in livestock sold but even in 1953 300 cattle, sheep and calves and a whopping 8000 pigs were traded. The Cattle Market finally stopped trading in 1957 and was replaced by a regular Monday Market and car park.
The car park itself was just one of many developed in Kingston: the first public car park was on Eden Street West and opened in 1925. A car park at the Cattle Market site was first proposed by Alderman A G Knowlden in 1955, however the large basement car park wasn’t constructed until 1985 along with the development of the new Fairfield Bus Station and Kingston Town Centre ring road.. The finished construction provided 491 underground spaces. It was refurbished in 2008 by Stirling Lloyd Construction costing £360,000 for 14,000m2. Surface parking costs £1 per 30 minutes during the day and £2 flat rate in the evenings, with 100 spaces available, and basement parking costs £1.40 an hour plus 70p for every further 30 minutes, or £2 flat rate in the evenings. An annual season ticket costs a whopping £2592.00 – so I’m glad I’ve got my bus!
During the basement car park construction, the Monday Market took place on a site in Ashdown Road with 180 regualar and 40 casual traders using 250 pitches. Today’s Monday Market sells bric-a-brac and is much reduced in size. It is managed by KingstonFirst on behalf of the Council, with 50 traders selling from 9am-1.30pm. One 10ft pitch costs £25.70 per week.
When the land was granted for the Cattle Market in 1925, it came with this interesting condition of land use: ‘that if at any time the said land shall cease to be used for the purpose hereby authorised such land shall again become an open space or recreation ground’. The Borough seems to have conveniently forgotten this clause – unless you count a car park as ‘open space or recreation ground’*!
* Indeed, if you search the web for ‘Cattle Market Car Park Kingston’ you can find some interesting options for potential recreational activity in the car park toilets. Not what the Ministry of Health had in mind when they attempted to protect Kingston’s open spaces, I think….
Surrey Comet: April 25th 1925, March 6th 1982, June 7th 1985, November 20th 1987
Sampson, J (2006) The Kingston Book. London: Historical Publications Ltd