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The New Market Hall

A Grade II Listed Building in Bridgnorth, Shropshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.5345 / 52°32'4"N

Longitude: -2.4199 / 2°25'11"W

OS Eastings: 371616

OS Northings: 293044

OS Grid: SO716930

Mapcode National: GBR BZ.FDYS

Mapcode Global: VH90Z.0KKD

Entry Name: The New Market Hall

Listing Date: 16 April 1987

Last Amended: 20 August 2013

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1053712

English Heritage Legacy ID: 255065

Location: Bridgnorth, Shropshire, WV16

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Bridgnorth

Built-Up Area: Bridgnorth

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Bridgnorth

Church of England Diocese: Hereford

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Summary

A former market building and assembly rooms, built from 1855-1859 to the designs of Robert Griffiths of Quatford.

Description

A former market building and assembly rooms, built from 1855-1859 to the designs of Robert Griffiths of Quatford. The building is in an Italianate style with arched openings and has polychromatic walling of red, white and blue bricks, laid in English bond, and a hipped, slate roof. The building is of one and two storeys, with a tower rising to three storeys at its north-east corner. The ground floor was planned to have shops at its eastern end, with the market hall to the centre and the butchers’ market at the western end. It now has shop premises facing onto Posterngate and Listley Street.

EXTERIOR: the polychromatic decoration has banded blue and white bricks to the lower body of each floor and blue brick walling extending upwards from the level of the springing of the arches of the openings on both floors. This treatment is common to the whole of the building, and the two-storied part has a deep cornice with a Lombard frieze of miniature round arches, supported on corbels to the top of the first floor walling.
The eastern front, to Posterngate, has a tower at right which projects slightly and seven symmetrical bays at left, of which the central three bays are closely set. The ground-floor arcade is glazed, and a shop front with plate glass windows and fascia was imposed over the central three bays at some time in the later C19 or early C20. To the first floor, the arched window heads have alternating blue and white voussoirs and above each is an oculus window with white brick surround. The single projecting bay of the tower at left has banded pilasters to either side and its second floor has a trio of round-headed lancets with a large oculus above, which was perhaps intended for a clock face. The top of the tower swells outwards slightly and has a miniature arcade of five windows beneath the hipped roof which has deep eaves and a wrought iron weather vane.
The south front has a single, projecting bay at right with polychromatic decoration, arched window and oculus, as before. At ground floor level a shop front has been imposed, with fluted pilasters, plate glass window and fascia. To the left of this there are the frontages of two late-C18 or early-C19 houses, against whose back wall the market hall was built. They do not form part of this item.
The north front has the tower at left and to right of this are six bays of two storeys, all arranged as before on Posterngate. To right again is the frontage of the market hall, which has seven bays. The first floor is recessed and bays to both floors are divided by banded pilasters of blue and white set against a background of blue brick with a white brick plinth. There is a deep band of red and white brickwork to the top of the first floor walling with zig-zag patterning. The doorway to the market hall is in the fifth bay from left. The two windows to the right of this have had their sills lowered, and at far right, set in a wide pilaster buttress at the corner is an arched doorway to the former porters’ room. The shallow-pitched roofing above this ground floor portion is glazed to allow light to the stalls in the market hall.
To the far right of the north front is the single storey range of the former butchers’ market. This has five bays with walling of banded white and blue bricks and a central, wide basket-arched doorway flanked by deep windows with round-arched heads and plate glass windows, replaced in the C20.

INTERIOR: the original entrance hall, leading to the first floor rooms is entered from a doorway on Posterngate. The room has been altered by the moving of the southern wall to a position further to the north, but this smaller room retains its original, patterned tile floor. An imperial staircase with stone treads rises to the first floor and has a cast-iron balustrade. The market hall has been subdivided, but retains cast iron brackets and slender pillars which support the timber beams beneath the first floor. The former town hall chamber, or assembly room, above the market hall has square headed windows to each side. These have moulded surrounds and aprons, which form part of the dado panelling, including a large incised oval beneath each window. The west end of the room has a shallow, arched recess to the centre of the wall and at either side are doorways with moulded surrounds which include a frieze and cornice. Above each door is a patera. The eastern end has a pair of original panelled doors at the centre of the wall, with a moulded surround. The deeply-coved and panelled, C19 ceiling is partially masked by a suspended C20 ceiling.


History

The market hall was built from 1855 to 1859 to the designs of Robert Griffiths of Quatford. The Borough Board of Health, established as a result of the Public Health Act of 1848, formed an alliance with a private company, the Bridgnorth Public Buildings and Market Company Ltd. to build a new market hall, offices and public rooms, including a town hall and assembly rooms. To clear the site they demolished John Smallman's Theatre, which had itself been built in 1824 on a part of the castle moat. Part of an adjacent tanning yard was also bought and, here too, deep foundations had to be dug on a site which had been part of the castle moat and which contained loose infill. The inherent difficulties of building on this site meant that construction was not finished until the end of 1859.

A map of Bridgnorth High Street, produced by the Board of Health in the late 1850s, shows the ground floor plan which placed shops at the east, market stalls to the centre and a butchers’ market to the far west. The finished building was also illustrated in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of January 1860 and an account of the building described the first floor space above the market hall being used as a public hall with a private room at the western end, reached by its own flight of steps. The rest of the first floor was leased to the New Literary and Scientific Institute, including a reading room and library. There was also room for the magistrates and another for their clerks.

The market hall was not a successful venture; traders refused to take space there and continued to trade in the street. Strenuous efforts were made by the town’s authorities to encourage and then to enforce the clearance of the old open-air market square. Local police were ordered to confiscate market produce and to clear stalls away and the chief magistrate rode his horse over the stalls on one occasion. A law case, taken out by ten of the traders against the council, resulted in the court ruling that the rights of stallage in the open market place was secured by medieval charters and could not be interfered with at the whim of the local authority.

The limited company, established by the council, then sold off the building at a loss and it was then divided in to offices and stores with an ironmongers opened behind part of the Listley Street Frontage. In 1911 the whole of the ground floor was leased by the Wolverhampton firm of H Robinson as a cycle and motor car works. During the Second World War the building was used by the Ministry of Supply. Post-war it was owned by Robert Foxall, a newsagent, who had a shop on the Postern Gate frontage. He leased parts to the Comrade United Services Club and to an engineer’s; Ernest Brown. Later in the C20 a large part of the ground floor became a supermarket and the first floor became a Museum of Childhood. The southern and eastern ground-floor fronts had shop frontages imposed, apparently in the later C19, and ground-floor windows to the right of the Listley Street frontage have had their sills lowered.


Reasons for Listing

Bridgnorth New Market buildings are listed at Grade II for the following, principal reasons:

* Architectural: the building has clear claims to architectural quality and has considerable presence in this part of Bridgnorth;

* Historic interest: the siting of the market, above a part of the ruined, Norman castle and the later development of this site as a theatre provides interest, as does the story of the refusal of market traders to use the new building and their legal fight;

* Intactness: despite some change, the building remains a relatively intact example of a market hall.

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