Former market hall and toll house

July 28 2017

THE former market hall in Thornbury’s High Street has been taken over by a restaurant chain, giving a new role to one of the town’s most prominent buildings.

THE former market hall in Thornbury’s High Street has been taken over by a restaurant chain, giving a new role to one of the town’s most prominent buildings.

According to an English Heritage survey, the building is listed as a probable mid-18th century remodelling of 17th century premises.

It is assumed that at one time the market hall was of the classic town market design, with pillars surrounding an open area at ground level that was used on market days and an enclosed room on the upper floor used as a court house and for other official purposes.

An article published in 1909 in the Western Daily Press said records indicated that such a market had existed since 1662.

It said that in March 1670, King Charles II granted Viscount William Stafford and the Lady Mary the right to hold a weekly market for the buying and selling of corn and cattle, as well as other merchandise - a right that continued until 1911.

With the right went the ownership of the market hall and the adjoining toll house, where market traders paid their tolls, and the responsibility to maintain the buildings.

During its lifetime, the market hall also doubled up as the town hall, had its own lock-up or “gaol” and was even used to store a fire engine and apparatus, while a significant feature is the clock on the front of the premises.

Although designed as an eight-day clock, it was necessary to wind it every five or six days due to the drop for the massive weights being too short.

The lock-up had been referred to in an account written by an Edmund Lloyd in the late 1840s or early 1850s as the “blind house” - a common name for such facilities because they had no windows, just a ventilation grille.

Prisoners were locked up, usually overnight, before being released, taken to the local court or moved to a bigger prison in a larger town. Their crimes would have included drunkenness, burglary, picking pockets, stealing livestock and poaching.

Meanwhile, the toll house was occupied by families from the 1840s onwards and according to census records had occupations other than toll collector. It is possible that they combined two or more jobs as the collection of market tolls was only a part-time task.

With increasing concern about the position of the market in High Street and cattle roaming freely due to a lack of animal stalls, the livestock market was moved to a site off Bath Road in 1911.

It is believed the last High Street market took place in the same year but there was certainly a Christmas market there in December 1910.

More recent uses of the market hall were for retail purposes, occupied by the likes of department stores Worthington’s and Wildings.

The toll house was also used as part of the stores, except for short periods when it was let out as an independent shop.

Now the market house has been occupied by restaurant chain Prezzo.

Information and photographs courtesy of Thornbury and District Museum