Themes: Trade / Food / Farming

Trade in East Anglia


Trade has always been an important feature of East Anglian rural life.  Anglo-Saxon farmers often produced surplus materials that would then be traded for other materials needed around the farm, from durable materials such as flint or antler to consumables such as salt, wine and fish. Grain crops such as barley and wheat were also traded, the wheat sheaf eventually becoming the chief symbol of rural trade and agriculture.  Animal products were also widely traded, including leather and wool.  Centred on Norwich, wool was woven to make a cloth known as worsted, which became a major export in the late middle ages.  The profits from trade in worsted created a number of very wealthy families and enabled new churches to be built known as ‘wool churches.’  

The last in a long line of worsted weavers, John Cubitt, died in 1882.



From Anglo-Saxon times until the invention of the motor car, waterways were the favourite form of transporting goods in East Anglia.  For shorter distances goods would often be transported by horse and cart.   But large loads could be more easily carried on water, creating an extraordinary network of canals and riverways with wherries and barges all jostling with one another. 


Markets and corn exchanges

From the Stuart to the Victorian periods, wheat and barley was traded at corn exchanges, still a major feature in many East Anglian towns. The corn exchange was an important commercial centre, central to the rural economy.  The building itself was often designed in the Greek manner, with a temple style portico and usually a statue or relief carving of the Roman goddess Ceres. Important market places often featured a buttercross, again often topped with a statue of Ceres.