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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Market House

Date of Construction:
1820 - 1839

Address :
Former Market House 1 Scarva Street Banbridge Co Down BT32 3DA


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
25/10/1977 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Gallery/ Museum

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J1254 4584

Owner Category

Local Govt

Exterior Description And Setting

A detached symmetrical two-storey three-bay stone former market house, dated 1833 and built to designs by Michael McGavigan. Located north of the junction of Scarva Street and Bridge Street in Banbridge town centre. Square on plan with breakfront entrance to south. Hipped natural slate roof topped by timber square cupola clock tower, pedimented with leaded roof topped by weathervane. Cast-iron ogee rainwater goods on projecting eaves. Walling is roughly coursed squared blackstone on an ashlar granite plinth with granite quoins, granite impost mouldings and red-brick dressings; sandstone cornice and parapet, advanced on east face over breakfront and decorated with the Downshire coat of arms. Windows are replacement 6/6 timber-framed sliding sash in recessed segmental-headed sandstone reveals with red- brick dressings and projecting sandstone sills to first floor; ground floor has large plate-glass segmental-headed windows, also in sandstone reveals with red-brick dressings. The principal elevation faces east with granite plinth to slope of hill and is three windows wide to each floor. Central bay projects slightly with granite quoins and is topped by sandstone parapet decorated with the Downshire coat of arms and inscribed “1833”. The entrance elevation faces south and has three evenly-spaced windows to each floor. At right is a recessed entrance bay having window to first floor and modern double-leaf nine-panelled door surmounted by transom light in sandstone reveal and red-brick surround. The west elevation has a timber-framed round-headed stairwell window to first floor and ground floor right; flanked to either side by smaller uPVC windows. Ground floor has modern fire door to right of centre. To far left is a projecting bay with modern double-leaf fire doors opening to south. The north (rear) elevation is almost entirely abutted by adjoining buildings. Setting Prominently sited on the brow of the hill at the junction of Bridge Street and Scarva Street, directly east of the former Post Office (HB17/06/028). Abutted to north by an early nineteenth-century terrace. Roof: Natural slate Walling: stone/brick Windows: timber/uPVC RWG: Cast-iron


McGavigan, Michael

Historical Information

The former Market House, situated at the heart of Banbridge, was built as its commercial, juridical and social centre in 1833/4 and, while the uses made of it have varied over the years, the building has remained central to the life of the town for nearly two centuries, providing both a visual (and occasionally audible) symbol of civic pride. An eighteenth century brown linen market was erected in Banbridge on the summit of the hill where the four principal streets intersect and is illustrated in Hincks engraving of 1783. A hotel called the Bunch of Grapes then occupied what is now the site of the market house. (Linn) However, in 1819 a new broad road was constructed between Dublin and Belfast, and the Post Office authorities threatened to bypass the town in order to avoid the steep hill at the centre of Banbridge. The inhabitants, fearing the economic impact on the town, obtained a grant of £500 from the Marquess of Downshire and opened the ‘Cut’ at a cost of £1,900. The old market house then had to be demolished but a ‘much more commodious’ one was built on the site of the Bunch of Grapes hotel. (Linn) The drawings of the new market house by Michael McGavigan survive among the Downshire papers and were realised at a cost to the Marquess of £2,000. Designs were also submitted by Thomas Duff but those of McGavigan were preferred. McGavigan (also spelled Gavigan, McGarrigan and Gaffikin) has no other known architectural credits to his name but was consulted about Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church in Belfast in the early 1830s. (Brett; The market house bears the date 1833 but was not completed until 1834. (Bassett’s Directory) Contemporaries such as Lewis (1837) thought it ‘large and handsome’ but some later Victorians found it lacking in architectural elegance. (Bassett’s Directory) The Market House is shown, uncaptioned, with market place to the rear on the first edition OS map of 1833. The ‘Market House, Court House, offices and yard’ are valued at £32. An 1856 Directory indicates that the rooms over the market house were used as news and reading rooms and as a Petty Sessions court on alternate Thursdays. (Directory of Belfast and Province of Ulster 1856) As was common in smaller market towns, a court room and market house were combined in a single building, with the two storeys providing an open lower floor for the exchange of produce in wet weather and an upper floor containing a court room and assembly room. The court-and-market houses of Ireland “constitute a recognisable indigenous type... having no exact counterpart elsewhere” with those built between 1790 and 1850 exhibiting the increasing attention that improving landlords began to pay to their design. The public buildings of Dublin, in particular those designed by Gandon, had raised standards and stimulated an interest in the formality and dignity of regional architecture. (Brett) The market system in Ireland grew up by mean of royal grants of monopolies to individuals, in this case the Marquess of Downshire and these monopolies were valuable by virtue of the right to levy tolls on all who brought goods to market. The toll system gave rise to grievances and eventually in about 1830 organised resistance meant that market tolls were abolished in many parts of Ulster, including Banbridge. The Fairs and Markets Commission of 1853, set up to investigate the application of the toll system, found that in Banbridge, markets were held on Monday and Tuesday – Monday for butter, fowl, beef, pork, meal, flax and potatoes and Tuesday for grain, hay, straw, turnips and green crops. In 1852 were sold 7,000 sacks of oats, 439 sacks of meal, 815 casks of butter, 2,800 casks of pork and 4,000 loads of hay/straw. (Fairs and Markets Commission 1853) Griffith’s Valuation (1856-64) lists the market house and the market place to the rear as a single holding valued at £100, together with sheds, stores and ‘market tolls’ where farmers and merchants would pay a levy for selling their goods at the market. The valuation record reveals that the stores were used for grass seed and flax seed which were significant trading items in Banbridge at this period. In the market place were erected two beams and scales used for weighing butter, pork, potatoes and seeds. There was also a weigh bridge for cartloads of hay, oats and straw. The occupier of the property at this period was Stewart Craig, ‘weighmaster and butter-taster’ who had been appointed in 1825 to weigh goods and taste and examine butter so that it could be branded according to quality. The weighmaster/butter-taster did not receive a salary but was paid a fee under the terms of the Butter Act by those who wished to have their produce branded. Banbridge was synonymous at the time with high-quality butter but Craig had some difficulties finding good casks or firkins to pack the butter into. (Fairs and Markets Commission 1853) Craig was thought to clear from £300 to £400 a year from the markets and was responsible for maintaining the market place. While in his post, he expended what was thought to be ‘a large sum’ fitting doors and windows to the sheds and stores. The rent for the market was £32.10s.8d. (Griffith’s Valuation) The upper floor of the market house was used as a petty sessions court room valued at £20. While not in use as a court the room served as a place of worship for congregations without a permanent home and was also the scene of public meetings. A £10 nominal rent was paid annually. Another room to the rear of the upper floor was a reading room and caretaker’s quarters comprising a kitchen and two bedrooms were also situated towards the rear of the building. The caretaker was Margaret Savage. During the period of Annual Revisions (1864 to 1930) the usage of the market house underwent several changes. In 1873 the reading room was deleted, moving elsewhere in the town. A court house was built in 1872/4 and in 1882, new public markets were opened in Victoria Street. ( The former Market House became the Town Hall although a butter and egg market was still held in the adjoining market place. Around the turn into the twentieth century the ground floor arcades of the building were boarded up and the space was used for storage and by a number of charities and businesses. Joseph Gault became caretaker from 1907 and Sarah Gault from 1908. Sarah Giffen was the caretaker from 1919. The 1901 census records that 58-year-old James Savage an unemployed labourer occupied seven rooms in the Town Hall with his wife Mary Savage who was the caretaker. The marriage was a mixed one – James was Catholic and Mary Presbyterian. In the 1911 census Sarah Gault is listed as a 41-year-old widow, occupying four rooms. (1901/1911 census) The local newspaper published reminiscences of the Town Hall dating to c1900 ‘Outside the Town Hall on a Saturday morning was a busy place. There farmers offered for sale their potatoes. The housewife has the choice of Champion, Kerr’s Pinks, British Queens or Skerries and the price 4d per stone. In those days the bottom portion of the Town Hall was used by Thomas Gillespie as a store for flour and meal for his shop which stood opposite and the top portion was used for concerts, lectures and parliamentary election meetings. The caretaker was James Savage. How often have I observed Mrs Savage with spotless white apron emerge from the side door that opened into the butter and egg market - a yard that was enclosed with high iron railings. It was here, after paying toll money at the gate, that farmers passed through with their produce for either of the respective merchants who were housed in separate compartments and whose names were displayed above the entrance, viz John Harvey, James Gracey and Bell (Hillsborough). The first photographer I knew was located at the bottom end of the yard and his name was Mr Trimble’. (Banbridge Chronicle) The clock tower of the Town Hall stands higher than the spire of the parish church due to its position on the crest of the hill. The plate glass dials of the clock facing North and South light up at night from inside the turret, but the East and West dials, constructed of an opaque light-weight metal, black-out after dark. The old timepiece behind the four dials was made by Sharp of Dublin and the bell above it was cast by J Sheridan of Dublin in 1835. The clock bell used to strike the hours and was tolled to commemorate events of national importance such as coronations, the death of sovereigns and great victories of the armed forces. At the turn into the twentieth century the clock bell was pealed to call out the fire brigade, which at that time consisted of a handcart with buckets and hose. (Banbridge Chronicle) Between the wars the clock was electrified by Sharman D Neill of Belfast but the old mechanical timepiece remains in the turret. The solid iron clock weights, the size and shape of biscuit tins, hang in the clock well behind the wall panels in the main hall. The initials of tradesmen who carried out maintenance on the clock are also to be found in the turret and stretch back to 1888. The name of A Sands, the master carpenter who is believed to have built the housing around the clock is recorded on 4th May 1942. John McFadden was appointed custodian of the Banbridge Town Hall clock in 1927 for which he was paid £8 per year. He was assisted by his son George McFadden who took over the post in 1947 and was responsible for winding and maintaining the clock until at least 1977. Winding the clock was a difficult and uncomfortable procedure, it took half an hour to hoist the weights to the top of the clock well and the narrow space between the timepiece and the wall of the turret meant that winding had to be done with the left hand. (Banbridge Chronicle) A car bomb in 1971 blew in one face of the clock and knocked the turret 5 degrees off perpendicular. Following this the striking of the clock was suspended in case the vibration might further weaken the leaning walls of the turret. Renovations took place using parts from Thwaites and Reed of London who also maintain Big Ben. A millwright straightened the clock hands and new parts were welded in by electrician John Williamson. The cost of renovation was £120. (Banbridge Chronicle) The council became absolute owners of the building in 1914, but vacated it in 1918 for premises elsewhere, not returning until 1954. By 1918 ‘Walsh’ (present-day owners of a business in Scarva Street) rented the ground floor from the council and used it for storage, subletting two thirds of it to the Temperance Union, also known as the ‘Catch-my-Pal’ movement, who used it as a billiard hall. Banbridge Urban District Council retained rooms on the first floor. The committee of the Soldiers’ Club, later known as the British Legion, had a billiard room on the first floor. In 1930 the store was taken over by John McCaldin and run as a grocery shop. In 1924the rooms retained by the Urban District Council were in use by the Commissioners of Public Works and from 1933 by the Ministry of Finance who used them as a valuation office for assessing the rateable valuations of property in the local area. From 1935 the British Legion billiard hall had been taken over by David W Chambers who was architect/surveyor to the council. (Banbridge Chronicle) In 1938 the entire ground floor was taken over and converted into a shop for the Electricity Board for Northern Ireland. Modern rectangular show windows were installed and the corner of the building was heavily rendered. The accommodation comprised a shop, general office, two private offices, two small stores, large store, a workshop and lavatories. The Catch-my-Pal club moved into the former Ministry of Finance offices on the first floor and from this point onwards there was no longer a caretaker living in the building. The former market place to the rear of the building became the site for the town’s new Post Office in 1939. (Valuation Records) During World War II a siren known as ‘Moanin’ Minnie’ was installed on top of the building as part of the air-raid warning system which was still being used to call the fire brigade into action in the 1970s. The fire siren was still present behind the Downshire coat of arms in 2007 but does not appear to have survived the recent renovation. (Banbridge Chronicle) Banbridge Urban Council returned to the Town Hall in 1954 and remained there until 1971 when the town clerk and staff transferred to new offices in Avonmore House, Church Square. Their former offices in the Town Hall were then taken over by the council’s engineer and surveyor James McKinney. In the 1970s and early 1980s the council’s works, recreation and building control departments were all housed in the Town Hall but when the new Civic Building was constructed in 1982, all these functions moved to the new buildings. (Banbridge Chronicle) In 1989 renovation work took place on the building and in subsequent years the building was used as offices by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the Town Centre manager and ‘Source’ youth drop-in project and there was also an exhibition space on the upper floor. (Banbridge Chronicle; HB file) A major renovation of the building took place in 2010/11 under the supervision of architects WDR and RT Taggart including removing the render applied to the building in the 1930s, reinstating the gates that would originally have been placed in the arcades, and overhauling the fabric of the building. The existing Downshire coat of arms was unsalvageable, and a new replacement has been carved. The mechanical clock has been restored and the interior of the building refurbished. (;; HB file) References: Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/3/27/1 First Edition OS Map 1833 2. PRONI OS/6/3/27/2 Second Edition OS map 1860 3. PRONI OS/6/3/27/3 Third Edition OS Map (c1900) 4. PRONI OS/6/3/27/4 Fourth Edition OS Map 1903-18 5. PRONI VAL/1/B/348A Townland Valuation (1828-40) 6. PRONI VAL/2/B/3/64C Griffith’s Valuation (1856-64) 7. PRONI VAL/12/B/16/6A-H Annual Revisions (1864-1929) 8. PRONI VAL/12/B/16/8A-C Annual Revisions (1899-1930) 9. PRONI VAL/12/A/3/14 Valuer’s Notebook (1918) 10. PRONI VAL/12/F/4/1/1 Annual Revisions (1930-35) 11. PRONI VAL/3/C/4/4 First General Revaluation (1936-57) 12. PRONI VAL/3/D/4/2/B/16-19 First General Revaluation (1933-57) 13. Fairs and Markets Commission 1853 14. Directory of Belfast and Province of Ulster 1856 15. Bassett’s County Directory 1886 16. 1901 census online 17. 1911 census online 18. Banbridge Chronicle 31st October 1969 19. Banbridge Chronicle 16th April 1971 20. Banbridge Chronicle 9th February 1973 21. Mourne Observer 13th October 1977 22. Banbridge Chronicle 25th August 1983 23. Banbridge Chronicle 8th June 1989 24. NIEA HB file Secondary Sources 1. Brett, C.E.B. “Court Houses and Market Houses of the Province of Ulster” Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1973 2. Brett, C.E.B., Dunleath, Lady “List of Historic Buildings, Groups of Buildings, Buildings of Architectural Importance in Borough of Banbridge” Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, April-July 1969 3. Lewis, Samuel. “A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland” London: S. Lewis & Co., 4. 1837. 5. Linn, Captain R “A History of Banbridge” (edited by W S Kerr) Banbridge Chronicle Press, 1935 6. 7. 8.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H-. Alterations detracting from building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting

Historic Interest

V. Authorship X. Local Interest


A detached two-storey three-bay stone former market house and town hall, dated 1833 and built to designs by Michael McGavigan. As a surviving example of the commercial development of Banbridge in the early nineteenth century, the building is a significant part of this period in the town’s history and its changing use over the years further reflects this. Recently restored, the clock is in working order and the interior has been fully refurbished for commercial use, with some alteration to the internal layout. Although this has resulted in some loss of character and fabric, the building remains of quality and character and is an example of the work of a prominent architect.

General Comments

Date of Survey

18 January 2012