Covered Market, Preston
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The Covered Market in 2015
Location within Preston city centre
|Town or city||Preston, Lancashire|
|Design and construction|
|Main contractor||William Allsup|
|Designated||27 September 1979|
It was in 1837 that Preston Corporation first turned its thoughts to the provision of a covered market and "appointed a committee to procure plans, estimates, etc.". Certainly Council minutes and local press comment show Preston was experiencing some problems with its market provision (In 1841-2 the fish market was moved to a covered area adjacent to the corn exchange and ‘moveable stalls’ were restricted on Preston’s streets).
By 1841 the Corporation "appeared seriously disposed to erect a covered market". Three sites were proposed, east of the present market place, Lune Street, and "the Orchard" (from which the current street name derives, and was the main open space of the town where most outdoor events and annual fairs were held). But in February 1842, the proposals were rejected, the given reason being the strain on the corporation finances caused by the Ribble Navigation. (In this same year, the Corporation had to borrow £12,000 from the Treasury to pay off debts incurred by the Navigation improvements.)
A covered market remained a talking point. In 1846, the Preston Guardian went so far as to propose that "the space allotted to the corn market has always been much larger than was needed" and that the Corn Exchange should be remodelled to create a new covered market.
Plans resurfaced in 1848 and the municipal authorities again resolved to obtain all the necessary surveys, plans and valuations, and to seek to finance the new covered market by a local act in Parliament for "a sum not exceeding £40,000 upon the security of such market and the tolls, stallage, etc., to be received therein". The chosen site was to be between Lune Street, Friargate, Fishergate and the Old Market Place (a location almost identical to that currently occupied by St George's Shopping Centre) and an outline plan, showing dimensions of 63 yards (58 m) at the Lune Street end, by 132 yards (121 m), by 53 yards (48 m) at the Market Place, was published in the local press.
However, once again other projects took priority and the council voted down the proposal on the grounds that the corporation's resources were, at the time, "sufficiently taxed by the improvements in progress". Over the thirty year period from the idea of a covered market first being mooted, to its final construction, Preston Corporation was undertaking a huge and costly range of civic improvement. It addition to the Port of Preston (including the construction of bonded warehouses and a customs house), Avenham Walk, Oxheys cattle market, Saul Street baths and Town Hall were all constructed and work was planned on the new home for the Shepherd Library (which would eventually become the Harris Library and Museum).
In the early 1850s, plans were once again well advanced, to the extent that the Council itself published a map and plan of the new covered market, whose location was now to be in "The Orchard", in November 1851. But again they ended in "doing nothing".
Finally, in 1860, a "Town Hall and Covered Market Committee" was formed and sufficient finance obtained through the Preston Corporation Markets Act of 1861 and the Preston Improvement Act 1869. The Council minutes of the 1860s show steady expenditure on the land and properties required for the market and its access (and, indeed, income in the form of rent from the occupiers), and comment in the press catalogues the difficult negotiation between the Earl of Derby, the principal landowner and the Corporation. The papers also describes what a congested and inaccessible place Preston Town Centre was at the time, "choked by blocks of buildings" and how the requirement "for complete and broad approaches from every side" for the new market would open it up.
Those same council minutes also show the appearance on the scene of Edward Garlick (1823–1900), who during the 1860-1870s held the roles of Borough Treasurer and Surveyor (for which, according to the Council minutes, he was very handsomely rewarded even by the standards of the day). Garlick went on to become a Justice of the Borough in 1875 and Mayor of Preston in 1882.
The journalist and local historian Terry Farrell suggests there were three plans for a covered market, and states that Garlick "visited several counties to inspect various markets" (perhaps including Liverpool whose covered market was being cited in the local papers as the type that Preston needed) and it was Garlick's own plan which the Council adopted and based upon which the work was put out to tender in 1870. A total of ten tenders for the building contract were received ranging in cost from £6,070 to £9,480 and on 19 January 1870 the council approved the tender and prepared a contract with one of five local firms to bid, Joseph Clayton, whose foundry was in Greenbank Street, Preston. His £6,070 tender was the lowest submitted (the other local tenders were from Joseph Foster £7,070; Edward Bickerstaffe £7,100; William Allsop £6,687 and Preston Wagon and Iron Co. £7,468). Clayton was told Preston required "a commodious market without excessive cost", and a contract stipulating completion by 31 July 1870 was signed. Thus started what was eventually to become known as "The Covered Market fiasco!"
At first, nothing happened. The site on "The Orchard" remained untouched through February and March and the Council became impatient, but Joseph Clayton blamed the delay on the necessity to make all the casting at his foundry before any work could begin on site.
Finally, in April the first pillars were erected, but by the completion date of 31 July the market wasn’t ready and the Council members began to press for a £50 a week penalty to be imposed on the contractor.
On Saturday 6 August 1870, ten men, five on the ground and five on the roof, were at work on the construction. At approximately 7.30am, "...all at once, without the least warning, a great portion of the vast fabric — in fact the whole which had been roofed in — fell with a tremendous crash to the ground". Contemporary historian, Anthony Hewitson, states "the roof, or as much of the roof as had up to that date, been fixed, fell, and the site presented in the centre — the roof collapsed inwardly-by disjointed principals, twisted and broken rods &c., was, indeed, most chaotic". Nine of the workers, including four from the roof, somehow managed to escape uninjured. The fifth, however, named Thomas Bateson of 6 Wells Street was seriously injured and rushed to the Infirmary in a cab by a policeman, P.C. Shakeshift, where he eventually recovered.
A contemporary photograph and an illustration still exist which show total structural failure. If contemporary reports are correct in stating that thirty one pillars had been erected, it would appear that the basic structure was almost complete (the eventually finished covered market comprises thirty two).
The controversy over this dramatic collapse raged on in the Council, in the Press and in public meetings for two years and its cause never definitively discovered. Questions over the structural safety of the design almost immediately surfaced and went on to reach as far as the national trade press but were always firmly refuted. Lack of scaffolding support, and the fact that the pillars and roof were being constructed from Lancaster Road down the incline to Orchard Street, were other possible reasons cited. In the subsequent exchanges between the Council and the contractor, Joseph Clayton, a number of accusations are made. There is a suggestion that Clayton thought Garlick's design somewhat ‘over engineered’ and may have cast the structure below original specification and had not closely followed them. Blame for the collapse ultimately came down to an argument over the lack of an adequate supply of larch poles, then used for scaffolding. Clayton claimed this was the Council’s responsibility, whereas the Council were insistent that an initial supply had been lent to Clayton awaiting the arrival of his own poles from a timber merchant in Liverpool.
Despite the collapse, the Council were still insistent that Joseph Clayton complete the construction of the market, to which he agreed, but then delayed the work by submitting three proposals for alterations to the work on grounds of "future safety". These proposals and a fourth, for Clayton merely to withdraw from the contract, were all declined by the Council. Finally, the contract was abandoned, but only after Clayton had agreed to the repayment of his original advance of £2,300 along with interest.
In 1871, Messrs P B Bennett and Co of Birmingham, who were not one of the original ten to tender, were given the contract to complete the covered market for £9,000. However, Bennett never started work citing safety concerns over defects in the design. The council refuted these and insisted on construction to the original specifications. No work proceeded, and thereafter confusion reigned as, in November 1871, the Council gave the contract to William Allsup of Preston (who had originally tendered at £6,687) without having first resolved the position of P.B. Bennett's, who did not vacate the site until April 1872 (the dispute between Bennett and the council dragged on until 1878 when an enforced settlement, for the payment of £ 1450 for non-completion of contract, was made on Bennett at Liverpool Assizes).
Finally, in May 1872, Allsups, a local shipbuilding firm, were cleared to begin work at a cost of £9,126 and five shillings. Wisely left by the Council to complete work at their own pace, Allsups finished construction in November 1875.
The completed structure
Built to the original specification, the covered market is built of cast iron pillars and lattice work iron roof structure supporting a wood and glass roof. It has a 90 foot span free from internal pillars, and the roof ridge slope drops 13 feet from Lancaster Road to Market Street. Perhaps the most unusual feature is the rainwater drainage. Water from the roof is collected in a concealed gutter and transferred via the structure to drain down the center of the hollow pillars.
Major alterations were made in 1958 when the glass skylights were removed, electric lighting installed and the cobbled floor replaced. The much simpler and smaller structure opposite, the old fish market, was covered in 1924.
- British Listed Buildings
- Hardwick, Charles, History of Preston 1857 Page 307
- Hardwick 1857 Pg 307
- Preston Guardian 14 March 1846 Page 2
- Preston Guardian 13 May 1848 Page 5
- Hardwick, Charles "History of Preston" 1857
- Preston Miscellaneous Maps, Harris Library, Preston
- Part 50 1861 c.vii Preston Corporation Markets & Part 62 (1969) c.lxxxvii Preston Improvement. Chronological Tables of Local Acts, Office of Public Sector Information
- Preston Guardian 3 August 1861 Page 4
- The minutes of 1863-1864 show that, whilst The Librarian of the Shepherd Library received a salary of £50 a year, a sum considerably more than any librarian might expect today, Mr Garlick was awarded £ 2,000 for his services to the Borough.
- "What a clanger!" Lancashire Evening Post 28 March 1977
- Preston Council minutes 1869-1870 Page 50
- Preston Council minutes 1869-1870, Preston Guardian 22 January 1870 Page 4
- Preston Council minutes 1869-1870 Page 67
- Preston Guardian 27 April 1972 Supplement
- Preston Guardian 13 August 1870 Supplement
- Hewitson, Anthony History of Preston 1887 Page 308
- Harris Museum, Preston, reprinted in Lancashire Evening Post 28 March 1977
- Letters to the Editor, Preston Guardian, 13 and 20 August 1870
- Building News, November 1870
- Preston Council minutes 1870-1871 pages 152-168 & Local Papers references
- Preston Council minutes 1870-1871 pages 152-168
- Preston Council minutes 1877-1878 Page 59-60, Preston Guardian 12 January 1878
Some references to the Covered Market in the Preston Guardian
- 1846 Discussion about the need for covered markets, 14 March 1846, Pg 2
- 1860 Proposed plan for Town Hall and Covered Market, 1 September 1860, Pg 4
- 1861 Covered market Preston Comment in leader, 3 August 1861, Pg 4
- 1861 Covered markets Comment in leader, 21 September 1861, Pg 4
- 1864 Covered Market Terms for purchase of land, 2 July 1864, Pg 2
- 1870 Covered Market Acceptance of J Claytons tender, 22 January 1870, Pg 4
- 1870 Covered market Fall of the roof, 13 August 1870, Pg 2
- 1871 Meeting of ratepayers about the future of the market, 21 June 1871, Pg 6
- 1871 Covered Market Comment about the market and the Town Council, 24 June 1871, Pg 5
- 1871 Another meeting of ratepayers, 26 July 1871, Pg 6
- 1871 Another meeting of ratepayers, 27 September 1871, Pg 6
- 1871 History of the covered market, 30 September 1871, Pg 4
- 1871 Covered Market Comment on contractor Mr Clayton, 7 October 1871, Pg 4
- 1871 Meeting of the markets and Town Hall Committee to investigate the delay, 7 October 1871, Pg 6
- 1871 Covered Market Contract given to Mr Allsup, 25 November 1871, Pg5
- 1872 Covered Market Messrs Bennett and Company the contractors removed their plant from the site and refused to proceed with the building of the market, 20 April 1872, Pg 5
- 1872 Covered Market Memorial to the Secretary of State, 24 April 1872, Pg *1872 Covered Market Letter from Mr Bennett to the town clerk about why he will not build the roof, 11 May 1872, Pg 5
- 1872 Covered Market Decided to let Mr Allsup build the market, 29 May 1872, Pg 5
- 1872 Covered Market Report on the covered market taken from the magazine Engineering, 26 June 1872, Pg 7
- 1872 Covered Market Report and comment on a meeting of the Town Council, 29 June 1872, Pg 5
- 1873 Covered Market Comment on the action of the Town Council, 27 September 1873, Pg 4
- 1873 Covered Market First meeting of the Committee of Inquiry, 18 October 1873, Pg 3
- 1875 Covered Market Completion of the block paving, 3 November 1875, Pg 5
- 1878 Covered Market Preston Corporation V Bennett at Liverpool Assizes, 12 January 1878, Pg 6
Some references to the Covered Market in the Preston Council Minutes
- 22 – motion
- 43 – report
- 46 – special report
- 27 – agenda (pork & fish markets)
- 56 – schedule (moveable stalls)
- 67 – bills
- 19 – treasurer’s report
- 48 – resolution+
- 11 – resolution
- 22-23 – petition for bill
- 13 - resolution
- 13 – markets & town hall committee
- 82 – resolution (mr. garlick)
- 91 – schedule of bills
- 102 – resolution (mr. garlick)
- 133 - schedule of bills
- 163-6 – receipts/payments
- 23 & 30 – petition to parliament
- 38 – revenue
- 83-83 – capital/revenue
- 84 – (Foster Cattle Market tender)
- 105 – receipts
- 117 – revenue
- 6 (accounts) – expenditure
- 50 – resolution
- 67 – contract
- 89 – revenue
- 129 – expenditure
- 1 (accounts) – assets
- 21 – revenue
- 40 – council plan
- 62 – revenue
- 79-80 – revenue/receipts
- 133-134 – capital/revenue
- 152-168 – contract/statements & answers
- 7 (accounts) – income
- 59 – resolution (mr. bennett)