It was given its first market charter in 1251. At that time Masham was quite an active place to be with mills, cloth making, tanning and sheep farming. At one time huge annual sheep sales took place in the square and surrounding lanes, with up to 40,000 sheep for sale. Those days are long gone but Masham Sheep Fair still takes place each Autumn and is an important date in the sheep showing calendar.
Sheep were almost certainly introduced to Masham and the Yorkshire Dales by the Vikings, who left another unexpected legacy in Masham. Some years ago a huge pile of bones was found: it's thought there was once a Viking burial ground in the Little Market Place, now commemorated by a blue plaque on the wall of the Masham Community Office. They were re-interred in St. Mary's Churchyard which also has an stump of an Angle Saxon cross by the door. A few years ago when the doctor's surgery was being extended, a skeleton was found, which caused some consternation - it was later found to be Viking rather than a neglected patient.
There are several interesting buildings and businesses around the Market Square - from the Kings Head Hotel on which if you look carefully, you can just see the outline of the words "Excise Office" from when it was a coaching inn and Masham was an important trading place. The Square is also where you'll find two galleries, Masham Gallery and Nolon Stacey Gallery tucked away behind Johny Baghdad's Cafe on the Square which is under what's thought to be one of the oldest snooker clubs in England. There's another gallery through the King's Head arch - Uredale Glass where the Simon blow and fuse glass. They have a small exhibition and shop area there. In the square you'll also find several places to buy sweet treats, Bah Humbugs and Joneva, as well as Bordar House Teas.