St Austell Market House

Old photo of the Market House St Austell
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Old photo of the Market House St Austell

The Market House is one of St. Austell’s most impressive buildings, built in an Italian Renaissance style in 1844. The upper floor, originally the Town Hall, has also been a Picture House, Fire Station and Court. Numerous key events in the history of St Austell have taken place at the Market House. In 1894, a Grand Indian Palace Bazaar was held for three days, attracting people from a wide area. It included a fancy fair and exhibition of electric light. Great Western Railway put on special trains to bring people to the event.

June 1889 was a memorable day for St Austell when the Liberal statesman William Gladstone addressed a meeting of 8000 people in the Market House. Crowds were also addressed by Right Hon Winston Churchill on 22nd January 1910 from the first floor gallery.

The Market House also housed more local events: in the summer of 1908, 1909 and 1910 the St Austell Cottage Garden Exhibitions turned the Market House in to a ‘veritable fairyland’. Myriads of small banners were suspended from the roof, flags hung on the walls and pillars were festooned with evergreens. The Guardian of 29th July stated that ‘the sombreness of the Market House entirely disappeared and in its stead were revealed all the beauties of nature – human as well as floral’. In 1908 both the upstairs and downstairs of the Market House were used for the first Fat Stock and Root Show. A silver cup, donated by Hon T.C. Agar Roberts was awarded to the owner of the champion beast. Market day was traditionally on a Friday in St Austell and the ground floor of the Market House was home to many butchers shops and other stalls. Upstairs was the butter market.

The building was designed by Cope & Eales of London and build by Olver & Sons Falmouth. The building has a large irregular floor plan, designed to fill available town centre site: at the principal front the ground floor is vaulted, 5 bays wide and 3 bays deep; behind is a large market hall open to the roof and with glazed lean-to shops on 3 sides; at either side granite steps up to higher level under axial roof to large entrance on right, and behind this there are 4 parallel roofs at right angles to the front. The main market hall has a celebrated roof structure – massive yellow pine timber trusses span the full width. The roof is a splendid array of braced and wind-braced queen-post roof structures. It is one of the best market halls in the country, the wooden vaulted ceiling is thought to be the largest freestanding ceiling of its type in Europe.