The Market Cross was built early in the 16th century "for poore market folkes to stande dry when Rayne cummith". 500 years later it is still serving its original function.
May 25th is St Aldhelm's Day, and in medieval times a fair was held in Malmesbury on that day, in memory of the man who is probably the town's most influential son. This tradition was revived in 2001, so on Saturday many of the town's organisations set out their stalls in the town centre and sold produce or books or whatever they had to offer. In addition there was a jazz band and other entertainers.
First on the scene, while most of us were still in bed, were the Garden Club for whom this was also their Annual Plant Sale. By 10:00 the whole place was a hive of activity when the heavens opened. Those who could, crowded into the Market Cross, though since the weather forecast had not been good, most people had brought along adequate cover for themselves and their produce.
The rain eventually stopped and the sun reappeared, and business was again brisk. Unfortunately that was not the end of the inclement weather. At around 2:00 when there was the added interest of the bride arriving for her wedding in the nearby Abbey, the rain came down harder than ever. This put a permanent damper on activities, and most participants decided that that was a sign to close for the day. So by 4:00 everyone had packed up and gone home. However there was enough interest in the event between the showers to suggest that this is a permanent feature of 21st century Malmesbury.
The next day the Mayoral Service took place in the Abbey. The Mayor, Councillor John Bowen, who was starting his second term of office, again chose St. Aldhelm as the theme for the service. Some of his famous riddles were read out, and in his sermon the Bishop of Swindon, the Right Revd. Michael Doe, described the life of the Saint and demonstrated how relevant it was to today's world.
The congregation included the Mayor and Mayoress, members of Malmesbury Town Council, the Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury, and representatives from Churches Together in Malmesbury. In addition the High Sheriff of Wiltshire was present, as well as our MP, James Gray, leaders of Wiltshire County Council and North Wiltshire District Council, and the Mayors of Frome and Bradford on Avon.
Click here for more information about St. Aldhelm.