The earliest settlement in the region was probably established on dry raised sites amongst the carrs and salt-marshes. The town of Howden was first recorded in 959 and was the centre of a large 51-carucate estate recorded in the Domesday Book. The earliest settlement in Howden was probably centred on the church and manor house. Small amounts of 9th, 10th and 11th-century pottery recovered during excavations at the Bishops manor House imply that there was a late Saxon settlement in the immediate vicinity. A church and a priest were recorded on the Bishop of Durham’s Howdenshire estate in 1086, presumably in Howden.
Occasionally referred to as a borough, Howden was the only large settlement and only market in the area. In 1200, a September horse fair was granted to Philip, Bishop of Durham, and the market mentioned in 1296 no doubt took place in the market place laid out by the Bishop in the area north of his manor house, which was previously much larger.
Buildings on the Market Place included the White Horse Inn, the Moot Hall and the Shire Hall.
The Moot Hall was a half-timbered building where the Bishop’s halmote court was held, with shops below the hall by 1760. It was demolished in 1815 when the court was moved to the court house in the vicarage grounds. The Shire Hall was located on the west of the Market place, on the site of three shops which were demolished prior to the construction of the hall in 1871. There are also two other triangular spaces in Howden’s street plan which possibly accommodated specialised markets.