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EXETER'S 19TH CENTURY MARKET HALLS

 

Exeter's Lower Market c. 1890

The exterior of Exeter's Lower Market in Fore Street

Photographed in the 1890s

Courtesy Brine

 

Exeter's Lower Market after bombing on 4 May 1942

The interior of Exeter's Lower Market photographed after the bombing which destroyed it on 4 May 1942

Courtesy of Peter Thomas

 

From "Reminiscences of Exeter" by James Cossins

Published in 1877

"The Lower Market was designed by Mr. Fowler, architect, as a butchers' market, with the corn exchange in a large room over the entrance; the Higher one for fish, poultry, butter, vegetables &c. The complaints were so numerous from the inconvenience of purchasers having to go from one to the other, that the Market Committee were induced to remove the centre row of the butchers' stalls from the Lower and place them in the Higher market. It is frequently remarked what a mistake in having two such buildings for the purpose and as the present generation may not know the reason, I will endeavour to explain it.

The authorities having decided to remove the markets from the streets, there arose the question as to the site. (At this time it was of great consideration to shopkeepers, the sellers being the wives and daughters of farmers who bought what they might require in the vicinity of their standing, and who were hospitably treated, and in return tradesmen were welcomed at their country residences.) The tradesmen in High Street wishing to have it in their neighbourhood; and those in Fore Street in the lower part of the city. Every influence was used for each locality. After a long delay, the expense being defrayed by subscriptions, and no chance of being unanimous, the Committee proposed two separate buildings, which was adopted. The Lower one was opened on Friday, 9th December 1836; the Higher one, July 24th 1838."

 

The pediment of Exeter's Higher Market - completed in 1838

The pediment of Exeter's Higher Market - completed in 1838

Courtesy Brine

 

In 1835, Charles Fowler was invited by the market authorities to design the Lower or Western market in Exeter. His Italianate design included Greek detail and was an immediate success - a building of which the city could  be proud yet unmistakably a market. He was so proud of his work that he had his name carved on the stone beam over the Fore Street entrance. 

In the following year, 1836, Fowler was commissioned to design the Higher Market in Queen Street. This time, he produced a building which owed its elegance to the influence of Greece. His second building survived the blitz and exists today as part of  the Guildhall Shopping Centre.

 

The interior of Exeter's High Market c.1900

The interior of Exeter's Higher Market in Queen Street

Courtesy Brine

Between 1939 and 1945  and later, when peace came, this space was used for entertainments ranging from boxing matches to Saturday night dances. In spite of its powerfully reverberant echoes, classical concerts were held there. There was a  complete lack of heating and the hardest of wooden seats which the audience had to stack along the wall as they left, yet the Western Symphony Orchestra brought some of the greatest soloists in the world with them to play to packed and highly appreciative audiences.

 

 
 
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