Old Photographs & Drawings of Chester
arkets are historically seen as the hub of the community and Chester Market is no exception, for centuries playing a central role in the business and cultural life of the city, a regular market having taken place here since at least the year 1139. The farmers and country folk would drive their livestock and carry their goods into the town and many set up their stalls in what has long been known as Market Square, but now more commonly Town Hall Square. The famous watercolourist Louise Rayner captured something of the atmosphere of these events during the nineteenth century in her fine painting of the then-new Town Hall.
Around that time, though, some were expressing unhappiness at the less-than-orderly nature of the market, as may be read in this extract from 1836 edition of The Chester Guide..
"The state of the markets was until very lately highly discreditable to the City of Chester. The meat market consisited of a collection of covered wooden stalls crowded together on the north of the Exchange (the former Town Hall, illustrated left, which burned down in 1862. Learn more about it here) - and universally kept in a very filthy condition; and a similar nuisance on the south side of the Exchange served for a fish market, whilst vegetables, fruits and flowers were scattered in complete confusion throughout the piazza and along the front of the building. The dealers in poultry and butter displayed their commodities in Eastgate Street, occasionally shifting from the street to the rows according to the state of the weather, very much to the invonvenience of the inhabitants and passengers. But the frequent complaints of citizens have induced the corporation to accomodate the city with markets befitting this wealthy and antient town- the erection of the new markets was commenced in 1826... the fish and vegetable market is in the south side, that for butter on the east and the meat and poultry on the north. It is also intended to erect a market for potatoes nearer to the Northgate. The new markets are built of brick and roofed in and lighted from the top, and open on all sides. When finished, they will no doubt prove an ornament to the city".
is possibly one of the last photographs taken
on the right,
1995. It comprised shops on the ground floor and council offices above.
In July 2000, we had the first confirmation of further great changes hereabouts. The city council had first announced in April 1998 a plan to "Improve the layout and appearance of Town Hall Square and its surroundings" and a series of public workshops were held to gain some idea of what people would like to happen in the area. Go here to learn more...
Left: When the Victorian Market Hall was demolished, this pathetic remnant was suffered to survive- tucked between the Dublin Packet pub and the horrible Scottish Widows Forum frontage- tauntingly reminding us of former splendours. Whether it will also survive the long-promised Northgate Development Scheme is anybody's guess.
Soon after we learned about the redevelopment proposals for the area, it was reported in the local press that one of the stone cherubs that long adorned the top of the old Market Hall had been discovered in a private garden and acquired by the City Council. It is hoped that the statue (right) will eventually be displayed somewhere within the new development. You can see them in situ in a photograph at the bottom of the next page...
At the time of writing, the Forum has begun to resemble something in a far less affluent place than Chester, the majority of the shops, including T J Hughes and the Somerfield supermarket, having closed down. Even ING's development information office has fled! Upon the advice of the inevitable consultants, the Market Hall itself has been reduced in size, so as to allow it "to look busier". Hard to credit... Nontheless, and against the odds, Chester's ancient market continues to flourish. Visit its excellent website and see what's there for yourself- history, a directory of traders and news of the forthcoming redevelopment. Of course, the best way to support the place is by doing your shopping there! The story continues on the next page...
The demolition of Chester Market Hall in 1964: civic vandalism of the worst kind
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