Entertainment in the Market

The Upper Floor of the Corn Market was used as assembly rooms for the local community and incorporated a theatre. The theatre was apparently well used and often attended by the Hanbury family.

An established theatre company – “The Breckock and Hereford Theatre Company” regularly performed at the Old Corn Market.

The Brecknock and Hereford Theatre Company.

The Company was under the management of the Kembles – a famous acting family from the early 1800’s. There were three Kemble children – Sarah Siddons, Charles and John. Sarah was used to the stage from her early childhood, and eventually performed at the best venues in London, and is reputed to be one of the best tragic actresses of all time on the English Stage. Charles Kemble, supported by his wife Maria Theresa de Camp played a variety of comedic roles. He became manager of Covent Garden Theatre in London. John Kemble became one of the first 19th century actor-managers of Drury Lane. The Company, even after the Kembles, performed in Pontypool until around 1833.

Sarah Siddons: ¹

Born in Wales in 1755;

Father: Roger Kemble

Mother: Sarah Ward Kemble.

Married 1773 to William Siddons and had 7 children.

Acting Career:

She first appeared as Ariel in ‘The Tempest’ with her father’s company in Coventry in 1766. After giving birth to two children, one during a performance, she made her Drury Lane debut in 1775.

She became a hit at the Theatre Royal in Bath, and returned triumphantly to London in 1782.

She was so famous in her day that commentators coined the word ‘Siddonimania’ to describe her weeping and hysterical audiences who were gripped with ‘Siddons Fever’.

Sarah herself retired from the stage in 1812 although she continued to give benefit performances and readings for several years.

Sarah died in 1831, and 5000 people attended her funeral in Paddington.

‘The awful consciousness that one is the sole object of attention to that immense space…’ Sarah Siddons

The Blue Boar Field.

As well as holding seasonal fairs, the Blue Boar Field was used to hold a variety of attractions, such as Jonnies Noaks Theatre, boxing booths, singers, puppet shows and other travelling shows.

Entertainment at the new market.

The new market hosted a boxing club and a snooker club on the first floor of the Upper Crane Street Arcade. The Arcade also hosted The Pontypool Working Men’s Liberal Club, which was holding meetings at the Market Hall as far back as 1901.

As the Market declined, these clubs dwindled, and when the Market was refurbished in 2013, the entertainment spaces became office space.

Market rights and tolls

From 1199-1516 Royal Grants of Markets and Fairs were generally recorded in charters. From 1516 Royal Grants were generally recorded in the Patent Rolls.

These grants allowed the right to hold a market, and charge tolls for traders to participate.

Tolls were like taxes that had to be paid if you wanted to sell produce to a local community at a Market place. The owner of the market had to get the right to charge tolls from the King and Queen.

As the population of Pontypool grew and demand outstripped the availability of good market stalls, pop up market stalls started appearing on pavements. Records show that a great number of people sold their produce from the pavements outside shops and houses. Often the owners of the shops and houses would charge “compensation” for allowing a stall outside their house, which was less than the “tolls” at the official market.

This created a lot of bad feeling between the toll owners and the traders, but the toll owners were unable to do much about it, except occasionally seize some of the produce.

Rates today

Market traders have to pay rates, or a tax, to trade in the market. These are collected to help pay for the building and its maintenance, rent, electricity, water, and management of the whole of the market.

[1] http://www.sarahsiddonsfanclub.org/