The Market Place fish and chip shop has been recently dated to 1420, only 5 years after Henry V's victory at the battle of Agincourt.
The large triangular market and neighbouring long straight road (now Church Street and St John Street) are signs of medieval town planning. It is likely that at some time in the middle of the 13th Century, (after the fire of 1252), a local lord decided to promote Ashbourne from a small hamlet to market town to serve his properties in the area and to increase his revenue. The market has subsequently reduced in size by infill buildings, which have divided the original market place into 3 – Market Place, Victoria Square, and St John Street.
Traditionally, pigs were for sale at the top of the market place, sheep in King Street (once Mutton Lane), wheat in front of the George and Dragon, and horses at the bottom of the market. The original buildings would have been 2 storey timber-framed buildings.
As Ashbourne became more prosperous in Georgian times, most buildings around the Market Place were rebuilt as 3 storey brick buildings, although some survived (the Fish and Chip Shop, recently dated at 1420*) whilst others had a brick front put onto the original house (Lamplight Restaurant, dated at 1493*).
The Market Place was and still remains a centre for entertainment in the Town, although the bull ring in front of the George and Dragon has long gone.
* See the report entitled 'The Development of Ashbourne Market Place in the 15th and 16th Centuries' at the bottom of the Building Features page. This has used tree-ring dating (dendrochronology) on a number of properties in the town.
In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie declared his father to be King James III in Ashbourne Market Place. His troops were billeted in Ashbourne Park.
Bull baiting took place in the Market Place. It had been very popular public entertainment since Roman times until it was finally banned in 1835.