The first market in Tetbury was on The Chipping, (also known as Chipping Croft), and then in the C16th moved to it's present position. It was recorded as early as 1287, and held by William de Breuse, who was able to claim the market from time immemorial, probably c.1200, at the creation of the borough. In the mid sixteenth century it was held on a Wednesday.
The fair on the 22nd July (the feast of Mary Magdalen) was first recorded on 23rd June 1350, and was held by Thomas de Breuse, who had been allowed to extend it to seven days. This fair was recorded until the mid sixteenth century, and continued until at least two hundred years later.
By 1594 the new market place was on the site of the White Hart, which was the chief inn in the town at this time. It was the point where the two main roads of the town crossed. By 1655 a market house and town hall building became the focus of town life.
The Ash Wednesday fair was recorded from at least the mid sixteenth century up until the mid eighteenth century. Fairs were held on The Chipping.
Atkyns in his book 'The ancient and present state of Gloucestershire' states "there is a large handsome market-house in the midst of the town, for the use of the yarn trade, and a lesser market-house for cheese and other commodities. There is a very considerable weekly market on Wednesday, which chiefly consists of yarn. Their fairs are on Ash-Wednesday, and on the twenty-second of July."
A plaque on the wall of the current market house tells us that “this great market house was built in 1665 and replaced an earlier building.” Major reconstruction took place in 1740 and 1795.
The illuminated clock was installed to mark Queen Victoria's golden jubilee in 1887.
At the east end of the market place, in the entrance to Cirencester Street was a lesser market house. This was built for the sale of cheese and bacon, which used to be sold in a penthouse off the Talbot Inn (1656). By the late C18th it had fallen into disrepair and was demolished in 1816. The prosperity of the market in the town was assured by the fact that the town was a major through route, but the main influence was the situation the town held in a rich wool growing area.
In 1221 there were two wine merchants trading, and by the mid thirteenth century it was well established as a market for agricultural produce. Tolls from the market and fairs produced the princely sum of £11 10s in 1296. The fair was a recognised mart for wool by 1306. By 1381 it was established as a centre for the sale of wool from the surrounding area. The market became one of the best in the region bringing in tolls of over £120 per year in 1622. The wool and yarn market thrived into the C18th, and by 1730 the market house was bursting at the seams. On one occasion the Thirteen had to seek another meeting place. Cheese and bacon rivalled the wool market drawing in producers from North Wiltshire and the Vale of Gloucester.
During the C18th market trade began a decline to such a point that by 1811 the market tolls only amounted to £14. A great market for cattle was established in 1810 and was held on the second Wednesday of every month. This was toll free, and dealt in cattle, sheep and horses. An additional livestock fair was begun in 1834, and held in November. In 1888 a new cattle market was opened by the railway, and was in use until 1974. By 1904 the market trade had declined so much that it was thought it might be abolished, but there was a revival in the 1920s.
The corn market was held at the White Hart from the early C18th, moving to the Town Hall in 1884. It had lapsed by 1900, was revived for a short time before the Second World War on its former site, the White Hart.
Administration of the markets has been from the Feoffees, running them on behalf of the townspeople, and from c.1900-1936, the Urban District council leased the tolls from the Feoffees.
The Market building is probably built on the site of another building called the Tolsey. It was erected in 1655 with an open colonnaded ground floor, and the upper story approached by stone steps, which served as town hall and meeting place of the manor court. Reroofing took place in 1740, along with an extension to the south west. Gables were removed from the roof in 1817.
Others uses of the building include Orchestral Concerts - on Weds 24th April 1850 'Messieurs Richardson and Sons last musical tour' in England before visiting America and Canada were to perform at the Town Hall as part of the tour. The programme included operas and works by Handel, Rossini, Mozart and others as had been perfomed in front of the Queen a few years before. Tickets cost 2s or 1s for children/schools and perfomances were held matinee and evening. An advert appears in the Gloucester Journal - Saturday 13 April 1850 page 2. Public meetings held included those for the proposed railway in 1872. In 1886 an enquiry into the Tetbury Charities was held which attracted 100 attendees. Political meetings, Annual General Meetings, fund raisers, antique fairs and similar have all been held there and will continue for many years to come.