The Market

Pontypool Market Introduction

“Despite the many industrial, social and economic changes that have taken place over the years, Pontypool Market has continued to thrive in the commercial heart of the town, proving to be one of the areas major assets” Arthur Crane.

Pontypool Market has been the hub of town life since the town was a rural village in the 16th Century.

The Market has always been the hub of Pontypool and although the economic climate is not good at present, hopes are high that the recession is now coming to an end. With the construction of a new multi-storey car park and the prospects of pedestrianisation, it is anticipated that the Market will once again be the focus of a prosperous and lively valley town centre” Cllr R.G. Wellington. Chairman of Economic Development, 1994.

The First Market

On the 25th January 1690, King William I and Queen Mary granted permission for the holding of a weekly market for the “selling of all manner of cattle, goods and merchandise” and for three annual fairs.

The weekly market was held on Saturday while the annual fairs were held on the 11th April, 24th June, and the 29th September. The permission was given to John Grubham Howe and his heirs, for Anne and Frances Morgan, daughters of Edward Morgan and co-heiresses of the Manor of Wentsland and Bryngwyn, often referred to as the Lords and Ladies of the Manor.

Frances Morgan, Lady of the Manor, built the market in Commercial Street, Pontypool for trading corn and other goods, and it still survives today, and is known as the old Corn Market. It was also used for entertainment. Tolls were collected for all goods on sale on market days. You can still see one of the original plaques on the building.

Archdeacon Coxe visited Pontypool in 1798/99 and stayed with his friend Squire Hanbury. Whilst there he visited the market and in “An historical Tour of Monmouth” 1801 he described the market as “The cheapest in the county, and the principal market for the natives of the mountainous districts”.

The Second Market

With the expansion of industrial and commercial life in Pontypool came the expansion of population. Archdeacon Coxe records the population in 1799 at about 1500, but just 50 years later the census in 1851 records the population as 16,864. The Corn Market was not enough to supply the people of Pontypool, so another market opened.

In 1827, William Williams and Elizabeth Williams opened another market house to sell butter and meat. As all markets had to be sanctioned and you had to own the “rights” to be able to charge tolls and run a market, Williams tried to purchase the rights to the market tolls off the Ladies and Lords of the Manor. However, he went bankrupt before that was possible.

John Griffiths of Blaenavon brought the Market House, and by 1837 the rights to most of the tolls from the Manor. By 1844 he had the rights to all the tolls, and the right to use the Corn Market for 12 months. After those 12 months were up, the Manor closed the Corn Market much to the displeasure of Griffiths, but he went around them and erected temporary stalls outside the George Public House.

By 1846 a new market was clearly needed, and a new premise next to the Blue Boar Field was located. The Blue Boar Field was an open space in the centre of Pontypool bordered by the present Commercial, Crane and Market Streets. The new market had two sections, a butter market, and a meat market, with another room for general goods. The field itself was used for seasonal fairs and entertainment, and eventually used as a vegetable market, leading to a demand for another new market building.

A New Market for all

The second market next to the Blue Boar Field was too small for the town, which led to trade going to other towns. The Local Board decided they needed a new market, but because of local opposition, the project was delayed.

By 1891 The Local Board had managed to purchase the rights from the Lords and Ladies of the Manor for £12,500, which was later confirmed in a private Act of Parliament.

The purchase of the Market was subject to certain conditions:

  • The market had to be held on the present site (except for horses, cattle, sheep and pigs which could be moved elsewhere)
  • Lease Rights were granted to Mr Edwin Fowler and C.G. Portnell
  • Rights of Way in favour of the George Inn.

Several designs for the new market building were represented, but the final design went to Robert Williams A.R.I.B.A. of London and D.J.Lougher of Pontypool, who had built St James Church vicarage.

The design was a large central hall, with removable stalls, and could accommodate between 5000 and 6000 people. The building was electrified, and was the first market to be electrified in the whole of Wales. The whole building cost £22,280. Mr Morgan and Evans were the contractors employed to build the new market and they started on the 28th June 1893. The market was completed and opened on the 1st December 1894.

The opening of the new market was featured in the local press and was a big occasion.

A Market for the 21st Century

Pontypool Indoor Market today remains at the centre of Pontypool town, and is linked to its surrounding streets by entrances on three sides. This beautiful listed building is a civic statement of the town’s former prosperity and is held in high regard particularly by the older residents of the town.

There are three main areas to the building; The Market Hall itself, the arcades which connect it to the surrounding streets and the three story building attached to it on the Crane Street side, called Jubilee Building, which is used by the community, and the council.

Old photographs of the Market show it packed with customers, but due to changes in the fortunes of Pontypool town, the market no longer thrives as it used to.

Regeneration

The Market as in previous years was in need of a re-design to make it relevant to the lives of the residents of Pontypool again. Markets play an important role today in local areas, as sellers of local produce, farmers’ markets, food fairs, niche markets such as craft markets, Christmas markets and French and German markets, and contributing to local tourism. With the new Market reaching 100 years in age, and having declined in the last 30-50 years, Torfaen County Borough Council decided it was time to refresh the Market and bring it into the modern age.

£2.3million was secured to regenerate Pontypool Market, and work started in July 2013

Progress so Far

Phase 1 of the indoor market project has now been completed. The Jubilee Building which is also the top entrance to the market along Crane Street has undergone a 10 month transformation project, and is now high quality office and community space, and is fully accessible to all.

The Market was completely finished in 2015 and refurbished with all the key architectural features from the ‘New Market’.

The improvements are part of the Pontypool Settlement Area project, which aims to regenerate Pontypool Town Centre and the surrounding neighbourhoods. This project has received funding from the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government’s Targeted Match Fund and Heads of the Valleys Programme and Torfaen County Borough Council.

Resources

Teacher’s Guide

Download the Teachers Guide for Pontypool Market exercises and activities.

Teacher’s Guide

Exercise three

Activity 3.1. Compare prices of yesterday and today

Resources

Cost of Living