Mr John Obins Woodhouse Examined

PORTADOWN, JANUARY 5, 1853.

From Review - Journal of the Craigavon Historical Society Vol. 6 No. 2


Do you reside in Portadown? - I do; I am seneschal of the town, and chairman of the Town Commissioners.

When were you appointed? - Upon the 1st of October, 1845, by the Duke of Manchester.

Are you chairman of the Town Commissioners for this year? - I am; and have been for the last five years.


MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

Are you aware under what patent the markets are held? - They are held by virtue of a charter dated the 13th of July, 1632, in the 7th year of the reign of Charles the First, which was what is called a renewal patent, granting to Prudence Obins and her son John, a market on the Saturday of every week, and two fairs annually; to be held upon the 1st of November, and one day following; and upon the Monday after Pentecost, and one day following.

Is the Duke of Manchester now the representative of the original patentees, and the proprietor of the fairs and markets? - He is.

Does the patent grant a right of toll? - It does, and a court of pie poudre.

Are the markets now held upon the days mentioned in the patent? - Yes; for a long time I recollect the markets being held on Monday; but they are now back again to the day mentioned in the patent.

Are the fairs held upon the days mentioned? - We have more fairs than those mentioned; we have a monthly fair upon the third Saturday of every month, and we have an Easter Monday fair; the November fair, granted in the old patent, has fallen into disuse.

Are any of the new fairs held under patents? - Not that I know of; we claim them now by prescription, as they have been beyond the memory of man; there was some dispute about the holding of these fairs for the sale of cattle, for I conceive that is the difference between a common market and a fair; but whatever litigation there was, the fairs are still held.

Have they been held for the last twenty years? - Long beyond that period.

Are tolls paid at the markets here? - No; there are not tolls paid; I recollect tolls being levied here, and there was a great deal of litigation in this part of the country about tolls; and there was a great deal of rioting and disturbance, until, for the peace of the country, it was thought better to give up the tolls; we have still a demise of the tolls, and we might proceed under it, but we do not think it prudent to attempt to levy them.

How many years have they been abandoned? - I suppose nearly thirty years; a very long time. Does the Duke of Manchester exercise any control over the market? - No; it is vested in the trustees.

How did it pass from him to the trustees? - It was vested in them by a lease dated 31st March, 1845, from the Duke of Manchester, to John O Woodhouse, Thomas Donovan, John Shillington, Thomas Shillington, and Henry John Porter; there are now four of them alive, Mr John Shillington being dead.

In the event of an appointment being made, who has the power to make it? - We have all the right which the Duke has.

For what purpose was that lease granted? - It is declared in the lease that if there are any profits, they should be applied for public purposes; unfortunately, shortly after the lease was granted, the failure of the potato crop took place, and the market was quite unprofitable for the first two or three years; however, I am glad to say that things are changing now, and for the last year there has been a very fair return.

What is the rent received? - Ten pounds. Is it paid? - Certainly.

From what do the profits arise? - They arise from two cranes; there was something paid formerly for standings in the streets, but it is not paid now.

Are the rights vested for ever in the trustees? - No; only during the Duke's lifetime. Is there an enclosed market-place? - None, except the meat market.

Where is corn sold? - In the open streets.

What are the principal articles of agricultural produce sold in the town? - Corn of all descriptions, pork, butter, flax, potatoes, green crops, live pigs, fowl and eggs.

Does the sale of all agricultural produce take place in the public streets? - Yes.

Where is it weighed? - The merchants themselves weigh the greater part of the corn, but if the seller pleases, he may go to the public crane and get it weighed; it is optional.

How many public cranes have you? - Two; there is the lower public crane, where grain is weighed, and the upper public crane, for pork.

Is there a crane in the meat market? - Yes, there is.

Is there a butter and flax crane? - Latterly, butter has been sold in the meat market, and some of the sheds are used by people who buy butter there, and who weigh it themselves.

Is that place the property of the trustees? - No; the pork and the grain cranes belong to the trustees, under their lease, but the meat market belongs to a Market Company, a Company formed for building the shambles.

Under the Town Commissioners? - No; they are a separate body, composed of shareholders. What is the constitution of the body? - In September, 1829, a Company was formed for the erection of shambles, and the money was raised by shares. The Company were authorized to extend their operations if they thought proper to speculate by the deed, as far as they legally could. They hold the meat market, and it is their property.

Have you a weighmaster for your cranes? - We have.

Is there one weighmaster appointed for the entire town, under the 4th of Anne? - No. Merely a man employed at each crane? - We call a man named John Conn the head weighmaster.

Was he appointed by the trustees? - He was, and by the Market Company too. Does he keep a deputy at each crane? - He does.

Does he account to the trustees and the company for his receipts? - He does.

And receives a fixed salary? - He receives a certain allowance, and the receipts of the meat market are returned to the Company, and the other receipts to the trustees under the lease. Is he sworn? - No.

Is flax sold in the public streets? - It is, and is brought made up in bundles to the mills, and never weighed at all, unless there is a desire to check the weight; but it is generally understood that the bundles are taken as stones, and unless some person raises an objection, the buyers will take it for granted.

Have the buyers stores in the town? - Not particularly for flax that I am aware of. Most of the buyers come from a distance. They store the flax occasionally here.

Where are potatoes sold? - In the public streets, and very frequently weighed by the parties themselves.

Where is butter sold? - It has been sold latterly at some of the stalls in the shambles, and the buyers there weigh it themselves.

Have you a fowl and egg market? - There is a large quantity of fowl and eggs sold here latterly, but they are sold in the public streets.

Where are the fairs held? - The cattle fair is held near the church, and upon the roads and avenues leading to it.

In the public street? - Yes.

Is there no enclosed fair-green? - None.

Do you not consider that a great inconvenience to the buyers and sellers? - I myself perhaps would rather see them in an enclosed place, but I know that there are a great many people in the town who would prefer having them in the streets.

What would the buyers and sellers prefer? - I am inclined to think the merchants would prefer going on with the business just as it is at present.

Do you think the public thoroughfare the proper place for holding fairs? - It is certainly inconvenient. I think an enclosed place would be better; but still, at the same time, there is always a great objection in this town to any thing connected with the removal of the markets. Could you give any idea of the quantities of grain, pork, flax, and every thing else sold in this town? - Yes; we have prepared a return taken from the united opinions of several gentlemen conversant with the markets.





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