Thornbury and District Museum: History of the Market Hall and Toll House
AS a market town Thornbury has a history of weekly sales of livestock, fish, corn and cheese dating back centuries.
According to an English Heritage survey the Market Hall is a "probable mid-18th century remodelling of a 17th century building".
The Western Daily Press of 1909 refers to records of a market going back to 1662. It records 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 things or merchandise". The market was to be held on Wednesday and William and his heirs were to receive the tolls and profits. This right continued up until 1911 and with the right went the ownership of the Market House and Toll House and the responsibility to maintain those buildings.
The first written record of the clock predates this, with an agreement between a clockmaker and several prominent tradesmen to build one dating to 1634.
The Market Hall was also the site of a town jail, most likely built under the stairs in the 19th century and known as Blind House, because it had no windows.
There were several markets in Thornbury: a cattle market, a pig market, a corn market, a fish market and a cheese market are all mentioned in the records, and vegetables, fruit and other produce may also have been traded in the markets. The central market place was located in the area around the Market House, but there is no complete picture of where each market was located. Silver Street is mentioned as a location for the corn market in the 17th and 18th Century, while the pig market was located on the road side between the Market House and Pye Corner and by the late 19th century, the cheese market was at the railway station.
The Toll House is believed to be where cattle and other traders were charged a fixed rate for each animal brought to market to be sold, with the income given to the lord of the manor. Records of how it operated or when it ceased to be used do not survive, however, and from the 1840’s onwards it was occupied by families listed in the census as having occupations other than toll collector. It is possible that they combined two or more occupations, as the collection of market tolls was only a part-time occupation.
By the time of the 1840 Tithe Survey, the Toll House was already being let to Joseph Prewett, who traded as a stationer and newsagent and expanded into the Market Hall by the 1870s.
Having ceased operating from time to time, by 1900 the Market Hall hosted a fire station and a shop run by Ernest Percy Weatherhead. Subsequently Beavan’s, Worthington’s and then Wildings, the Toll House was also part of the shop, except for short periods when it was let out as a separate business, including the Kyneton Farm Shop in the 196os and butcher Terry Davies for a few years in the 1970’s.
Until recently part of Wildings department store, the Market Hall and Toll House have been the site of Prezzo Italian restaurant after being redeveloped in 2017.