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History of Warrington Market

The earliest documentary evidence for the holding of a fair in Warrington is dated 20 October 1255 when the population of the town was no more than 700 people. This document is in the form of a charter granting the 7th Baron of Warrington, Sir William Fitz Almeric le Boteler, the right to hold:

"A three day fair yearly at his manor of Wherington, on the eve, day and morrow of translation of St Thomas the Martyr, and also a market on Wednesdays."

The medieval market

There were two subsequent charters granted by King Edward I, one in 1277 adding a weekly market on Fridays and a winter's fair on the feast of St Andrew. A second charter in 1285 giving the Baron the right to hold a weekly market on Wednesdays and extending the July fair by five days.

Charters were granted by the Crown as a reward to barons and landowners for services rendered to the Sovereign. The grant of a Royal Charter to a landowner was of great value as the landowner was allowed to charge rents and tolls to those sellers attending the markets and, most importantly, it gave protection to the holder of the charter from disturbance by other market operators. This protection still exists as, under common law, the holder of a market charter is entitled to take action against any rival market operator who opens a market or attempts to open a market within 6 and 2/3 miles of its charter market.

By the middle of the 15th century, when the population of the town had increased to about 1,300 persons and despite the difficulties of transport at that time, it became clear that Warrington’s markets and fairs were known to traders from far and near. The lanes around the market had become so crowded with stalls and animals that an open space had to be made in the north west corner of the crossroads. This became known as the corn market but on the earliest maps was called the Forum.

The rights to collect tolls on these markets and fairs remained with the Barons of Warrington, and later with the lords of the manor, until 1856 when the newly formed corporation purchased them from John Ireland Blackburne, the then Lord of the Manor.

The Victorian market

Three years later the Warrington Improvement and Market Act came into force and the corporation were granted the right not only to hold and maintain a market but also to construct on any lands purchased under the powers of the Act, or on any land forming part of any street, one or more market houses and market places for the sale of cattle, hay and other articles.

After much debate it was decided to build a new market hall for meat traders and in 1856 an impressive brick and stone building was erected.

It was extended in 1873 by the addition of a cast iron framed fish market hall and later by the construction of a glass roofed general market hall on land behind the Barley Mow Inn.

By the late 1960s the Victorian market halls had become outdated and inefficient and they could not meet the stricter standards of health and hygiene. It was not possible to construct a new market around the old without disturbing trading activity for a long period and so the council decided to relocate the market to its present site in Bank Street.

The market today

Choice of location

The planning studies which followed the designation of Warrington as a New Town incorporated a detailed re-assessment of the strategy for the redevelopment of the town centre. In order to permit the building of the Golden Square shopping precinct, the studies recommended the relocation of the market to a site where it, and other new developments, would provide a counterbalance to Golden Square.  The council built its new market in the area between Bank Street and the rear of Bridge Street on land formerly occupied by car parks and little used old buildings.

A brief description of the structure

The site chosen permitted the new market to be designed on three levels, utilising the natural fall of the ground from north to south such that each floor comes out at ground level. It also provides service access to the rear of shops on Bridge Street via a tunnel from the basement of the building. A roof form was developed for the two general halls which afforded floor space free of intermediate structural supports and utilised a system of pyramid units (36 in all), glazed only on one face to give evenly distributed light. The new building was opened in July 1974 having cost £1.5 million pounds.