The General Market
Wellington Market Hall was first opened in 1866 and was built to cope with the unprecedented demand for goods and services created by the town’s commercial boom during the second half of the Nineteenth Century. Before the establishment was erected, an open-air market was held in the Square, where the town’s former market house also stood until the early 1800s, before being dismantled. The house was a timber-framed structure mounted on wooden pillars and consisted of an open ground floor for stallholders, with a town hall situated above it, used once a year as the Manor Courtroom.
The End of the Manor Court
At the beginning of the Victorian period, the Manor Court, which was made up of a jury chosen from some of the town’s wealthiest inhabitants, still presided over Wellington’s affairs and appointed a host of officials to carry out its work. Before 1840, its officers included three constables who enforced law and order in the town, two street scavengers, two clerks of the market and a common crier, whose job it was to collect fines imposed by the court and to issue its public proclamations. By the mid Nineteenth Century, the Court’s business consisted mostly of dealing with public nuisances and regulating the streets and pavements and it was increasingly unable to deal with the pressures created by Wellington’s commercial expansion. After a group of local ratepayers had successfully applied for an Act of Parliament, an elected Improvement Commission was established in the town in 1854, which replaced the inadequate Manor Court.
Life in Butcher Lane
The Wellington Market Hall Company was formed in 1841 and, unlike the Manor Court, took advantage of the town’s improving fortunes by constructing a new town hall and butter market off Market Street in 1848, at the end of modern day Market Approach, then known as the Shambles’. The eastern half of Market Street itself was once called Butcher Lane, owing to the high number of people carrying on that trade in the area and would have looked very different before redevelopment. In 1840, the site of the current Market Hall and yard was occupied by a number of commercial premises, including the butchery business of Joseph Dolphin and the shop, warehouse and home of Samuel Moore, a local grocer. Edward Cludde of Orleton Hall, who held a sizeable amount of land in the vicinity that included a bowling green situated half way between Market Street and Walker Street, owned Moore’s property. The Shambles’ was also home to many butchers stalls, which were still extant in 1864, when John Barber devised a plan of the area before further redevelopment took place.
The Rise of the Modern Market
In 1856, the Wellington Market Hall Company purchased from the Lord of the Manor, the right to charge the tolls, which all stallholders had to pay for doing business in the market. This enabled the company to greatly improve local facilities and its position was strengthened again in 1864, when it received permission to hold a Saturday market, in addition to the original Thursday opening that was sanctioned by the town’s Charter of 1244. The business was reconstituted as the Wellington (Salop) Market Company Limited and it was this firm that was responsible for opening the new market hall in 1866, which also incorporated a covered potato market in the yard outside, where local farmers could sell vegetables and other produce directly from their carts. The addition of a Corn Exchange on the site two years later expanded the interest of the company still further and a new livestock market on Bridge Road was opened during 1868. In the space of just twenty years, a modern market that helped to establish the town as one the region’s leading commercial centres of the late Victorian period and beyond had replaced Wellington’s antiquated facilities.