Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Burnley Market Hall

Burnley Market Hall - Victorian Stone to 1960s Concrete


A Burnley Express article on 16 November 1979 by Winifred Bose gives the History of the Market

MARKETING in Burnley goes back many centuries, and it was "from the Lord of the Manor that the town obtained benefits galore. The most important of these came from the market and the fair.

In the late 13th century, Henry de Lacy 'was the most important Lord, and Edward I granted to him by charter on June 6th, 1294, the principal benefit. A translation of part of that charter makes interesting reading:

"And they have a weekly market on Tuesday in their Manor of Brunleye in the County of Lancaster and a fair every year lasting through three days, that is, on the eve, day and morrow of the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul."

This meant that the Lords of the Manor could have a market every Tuesday, and a fair every year of three days' duration on June 28th, 29th and 30th. A market cross was put up at the bottom of Godley Lane, later to become Ormerod Road, and it cost de Lacy the handsome sum of 9s. 1d. It was said then to be money well spent.

Only about 300 people lived in Burnley at that time, so it was a lucky place to be granted a market and fair for which permission had to be given.

In 1300 it was just a tiny hamlet market, but it increased in size as pack-horses began to bring in a wider range of goods.

Pedlars brought packs on their backs, women brought eggs to market, and butter; farmers drove in their sheep and cows and pigs.

Traders sold spices, laces, combs, metal dishes, mirrors, knives, salt, pepper, ointments, and as the years rolled by, the variety of wares increased with the population.

There were officials, similar to our present day inspectors, who were appointed to prevent overcharging, or infringing the customs of the manor or the regulations of the state.

Burnley market charges do not seem to have been recorded, but Clitheroe charged Id. per day and 2d. on fair days, when buyers were no doubt more plentiful.

A toll was also levied on every article bought or sold, which might be likened to our VAT, and some vendors did try to avoid these payments by bringing their goods to market on days other than scheduled market days.

This habit led to a law suit between Padiham and Burnley when the former complained that their fairs were being ruined by Burnley. A bit of the blarney still goes on as it did in that year of 1639.

Burnley held a privileged position in having its ancient market, for in this part of Lancashire only Preston, Walton-le-Dale, Clitheroe and Netherton had grants.

Populations grew and with them the market. Though there were only about a couple of hundred people in Burnley in 1300, the population was probably further reduced by famine in 1315, and by the Black Death in 1349, yet even the growth of industry depended on the market as a nearby outlet for goods.

The market was extended in 1671. but was still at the bottom of Ormerod Road. Shops and general stores increased, and it is said that in the latter part of the 17th century, there were six hatters in the town.

By 1800. the ancient weekly market and fair had been transferred from its original site opposite St Peter's Parish Church to near the bottom of Manchester Road, then known as Market Street.

There was a method of allocating stalls. Traders lined up at 6 a.m. on Monday morning, and a bell rang to start them racing to the best positions.
By the mid-19th century, the former Woolworth site on the corner of Hammerton Street became an open vegetable and fruit market. In 1850 there were three markets, the Victoria, which was the vegetable market; the general market at the bottom of Manchester Road, and the covered and open air market on the present site.

By 1895 Burnley Corporation had full control over markets and hawkers and on January 1st, 1870, a new market hall was opened.
The charter of 1294 fixed Burnley market day on Tuesdays, but the 19th century St James's Street market was held on Mondays. The 1870 market remained in use until it was demolished in 1966.
It closed down one Saturday evening, May 28th, 1966, and traders moved into temporary quarters in Curzon Street to await the opening of the new Market.


The caption with the above Burnley Express photograph read:

"Currently topping the pops for free entertainment. Burnley's century old Market hall soon to be demolished and rebuilt with the help of Jim Bates' crane".


The Gates & The Bull's Head


Editorial - Any Use for a Pair of Gates?

To what lengths should we go to preserve our relics of the past? The suggestion has been made to me that no endeavour should be spared to retain for posterity the huge wrought Iron gates which guard the entrance to Burnley's century old Market Hall.

They are. without doubt, a magnificent tribute to the craftsmen of yesteryear and it would surely be a pity that, having escaped the war-time plunder of our iron railings and gates they should be destroyed during the demolition of the
Market Hall, which is to begin next month.

Mr Eric Cookson, managing director of the Howarth Construction Company, contractors for the central area redevelopment scheme Is making arrangements tor the gates to be dismantled intact, following a suggestion made to him by former Burnley Civic Trust secretary. Mr Harry Schofield, that they should be preserved.

The snag

"I certainly would not like to see them destroyed." said Mr Cookson. "They are a very unusual example of this type of work. Some people will find them beautiful; others will consider them appropriate only to their existing setting. So It may be quite a Job finding a new home for them."

The idea has been mooted that the gates should be re-erected at Towneley " either in the park or in connection with the museum. Parks Director Mr J. Mattocks has, however, already made a close inspection of the gates and tells me that he cannot visualise making use of them in the parks.

The difficulty is that the gates are very heavy and operate on the sliding principle, and, consequently, require a very substantial support.

Mr. Hector Thornton, the Towneley Curator, thinks the gates would look well at the Towneley Holmes entrance, out doubts very much If they would fit. What about the proposed crafts house to be set up by the Towneley Hall Society? "Again, they would be too big and take up space needed for many other examples of local craftsmanship."

Bull's head

But there is one relic from the market hall that Mr Thornton would like to see preserved the bull's head, immediately above the gates archway. It's a very fine example of carving." says Mr Thornton, "I don't know anything of the history of the stone it probably has something to do with the cattle market."

So, unless someone comes up with a bright suggestion, it appears the gates will finish up on the scrap heap.

If they do it will be the flamboyant desire of our Victorian forefathers to build big, as much as anything, that is responsible.


Not officially in Market Square, there were a number of businesses which depended on the market. Duxbury's Empire Refreshment Bar is a good example.
A sign, the right of the bar, tells us that famous Burnley delicacy, pie and peas, would be had for 2d - just over a penny in todays currency.

From an article written in the Burnley Express by Local Historian Roger Frost MBE


Interior of the Old Market Hall


The Market Place & the Outside Market


The seeds of change are sown.

On 7 January 1961 a report in the Burnley Express reported that there were arguments amongst members of Corporation members regarding the redevelopment of the town centre specially to do with the Market Hall and surrounding shops. The public were not informed of the details of the changes until October 1963 when a public meeting was called and an opportunity for the public to see a model of the proposed new layout.


There was quite a backlash within the town from the general public, market stall holders and local shop owners.

In May 1964 a protest petition was launched, and public meetings held. Those organising the petition stated that they were not against any improvements that are deemed necessary, but the proposed plans were too ambitious. Within a month the petition had been signed by 9,238 residents and shoppers in Burnley.

The Burnley Express reports that in May a visiting expert - Mr NB Tetlow, an architect, who was for 15 years a Ministry of Housing and Local Government regional planning officer - opined that the "Proposed shops will never be filled".

In the same month Mr RG Clegg, managing director of Altham's Stores, Ltd. said they would require three units to replace existing accommodation, which they had been offered by Hammerson's letting agency at prices ranging from £3,200 to £4,000 per annum - in one case almost £4 a square foot for the shells. "These rents, plus increased rates, are, in my opinion, quite uneconomic and out of the question for my company to pay.

Reading the extensive Burnley Express reports of these meetings the Corporation does not come out of it well. In summary it appears that their only and consistent argument was "We are the elected corporation and we know what is best for Burnley".


Closure - Burnley Express photograph 1 June 1966


The Destruction


The Foundation Stone Burnley Express Photograph from 22 October 1965

The caption for this photograph in the Burnley Express read:

ALD. J. HERBERT, saying he would make matters right later with the local bricklayers' union, helps to lay the stone, watched by Mr Sidney Mason (of Hammerson's) and the Mayor (Ald. G. Hollinrake). But while civic leaders and businessmen had lunch at the Keirby Hotel, the workmen were busy removing the foundation stone for safe keeping until it goes in its permanent place.


The New Market Hall


Opening Day


From the Burnley Express 18 November 1969

A commemorative plaque had been set into the wall - dated almost exactly one century after the opening of the town's last market hall. A stones-throw away which made its debut in January 1870.

Crowds of shoppers braved yesterday's cold to witness the new market's debut - and to have the privilege of being among the first customers to Burnley's £600,000 trading complex.

But in spite of the temperature, the sun shone obligingly in a blue sky as the Mayor and Mayoress (Coun. and Mrs Arthur Proctor) were joined by councillors and corporation officials on and around the improvised dais on the old open market site for the opening speech by Coun. Frank Bailey, chairman of Burnley's Development Committee.

The speech was relayed to the 260 stallholders inside of the building, while hundreds of spectators waited by the Curzon Street entrance to the twin markets.

Coun. Bailey, who described the new market as 'a glittering jewel' in the setting of this great new modern development, was the man who made history not only by opening the building, but by making the first purchase - a nightdress for his wife.

In his opening speech, Coun. Bailey said that some people already looked back with nostalgia to the old market hall - believing that it should never have been pulled down because of its structural grace and beauty; others called it a Victorian monstrosity.

"When the time came for it to disappear, it fought to the last and defied the fierce blast of explosives which were intended to bring it tumbling down" he recalled.

This new building was the first step in the complete rehabilitation of the town, from which other phases would follow until ultimately, Burnley would be reborn from the old cotton town they once knew.

"The markets came first, as they did 700 years ago when they were first established. Seven centuries is a long time to maintain the fame and popularity that Burnley markets have acquired over these dusty centuries." Coun. Bailey went on. "With this new site. The council has uplifted the markets in more senses than one. To place an open market and market hall at first floor level is an innovation to this part of the country. The stalls are attractive and the traders have spent a great deal of money on fitting out their units. This enhances the market and makes it more efficient. The open market is designed to be far more cosy and compact than the old one. I am quite certain that the appeal of these bright new markets, coupled with the personal service offered by all the traders, the quality of the goods and the competitive prices will ensure that the market is very best in Lancashire."

Ald. TE Gallagher recalled with nostalgia, buildings which had been razed for the sake of redevelopment. "But a town that chooses to stand still and refuses to progress will soon die" he added.


Ten Years On (From an article in the Burnley Express of 16 November 1979)

On November 17th, 1969, Burnley's £600,000 market and shopping complex, part of a £5m. redevelopment scheme for the town centre, opened on schedule.

Market Traders described the weekend as one of the biggest upheavals in the history of the town's market, and our present Mayor Coun. Frank Bailey, as the then chairman of the Borough Council's Development Committee, officially opened the market.

So what has happened in 10 years of trading in the new market, since the covered and open markets got off the ground?

A total of 242 stall units were designed to operate on the first floor of the shopping centre adjacent to an open shopping gallery overlooking the Market Square.

There were many teething troubles initially with the staircase, the ramp and the escalators, and only recently have some of these problems been solved.

Children have played havoc over the years with the fountain, and the escalators; old people found stairs and escalators difficult to negotiate; some of the problems have been solved; some may never be, but we can't please everyone. The new market has many advantages.

The market is covered by a curved pre-cast concrete and steel glazed roof, which has left a clear floor 'space in the hall so that intermediate columns are not needed.

The lack of columns allowed a free layout of stalls within the hall itself and has given customers unobstructed vision within the hall.

The open market has a flat roof over most of its area to provide protection from rain. There were teething problems, but none that could not be fixed after a few trials and errors.

Most of the stalls were made to a standard design, and the majority have a fascia and hanging rails suspended from the roof. There is fluorescent lighting, so that although the air of an open market remains, indoor amenities make life easier for tenants and customers.

Goods lifts provide servicing to the covered market and the large service area at ground floor level under the market.

The staircase leading from the Fountain Square caused a lot of trouble, but with the new wider one now finished, access is easier.

Times change and though for many of us the new market will never seem quite like the old one, and market days are not what they used to be, there are obvious advantages.

There were protests initially about the Thursday market day but it has caught on and is now a popular day.

Seen through fresh eyes after ten years, there is much to be said in favour of the markets as they are today, and at least some of the old traditions have been preserved.

Tenants have helped preserve the atmosphere for where in Lancashire is it still a common sight to see tripe and cowheel, faggots and elder, leaf tripe and trotters, muffins and oatmeal cakes, stew, and oven bottoms?