Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 02, 2016
Webpage updated: April 17, 2021

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Devonport Market

Devonport Market.
Only the bottom building survives with the clock tower at the north-west corner.
From Ordnance Survey map CXXIII.11 surveyed in 1912.

The earliest published description of what was then the Plymouth-Dock Market dates from 1812:

'The Market at this place is held three times in a week, namely, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; the market-place has been lately almost rebuilt with considerable improvements, by Sir John Saint Aubyn, and is admirably adapted for its purpose but has no merit, nor can it be seen as an entire building from any part; it is not perhaps so extensive or airy as the new market-place at Plymouth, but it is said to be better supplied with provisions, except corn, which cannot be exhibited for sale here.  Some years ago, probably, not more than forty, the site of the market place was a pool of stagnant water; previous to the filling up of which, the provisions were sold under temporary wooden shambles, near the dock-yard gate.  It is now in the lord's demesne, and is let annually at Midsummer.  Some idea of its importance may be formed, from the circumstances of the tolls being rented, or farmed at the rate of 2,100 per annum.'

It will be noted that no corn was offered for sale and no cattle either; it was almost entirely produce.  Poultry and butter were sold in an extensive loft over the shambles.  The reason it was well supplied was no doubt because of the fresh fruit and vegetables brought down from Calstock and other quays on the River Tamar by the market boat.

The stalls from the old shambles were moved from outside the Royal Dockyard Gate to the new site in 1762 and a new building was erected in about 1800.

On Friday June 12th 1835 the Royal Assent was given to the Devonport Market Act 1835, which authorised the enlargement of the Market and the establishment of a market for corn, grain and other articles.

Mr James Saint Aubyn, Lord of the Manor, laid the foundation stone of a new market on Tuesday July 13th 1852 -- the building that still survives today.  It was designed in the Italian style by Mr James Piers Saint Aubyn of London and built by a Mr Clift at a cost of 17,944 7s 7d.  The tower at the south end of the butchery was in the style of an Italian campanile and is 124 feet high to the weather-vane.  It contained a bell and each face displayed a clock.  The building had three iron-trussed roofs with iron lattice balconies supported on slender iron columns with palm-leaf capitals.  It is particularly noteworthy for its cast-iron staircase and galleries.

The Devonport Market Tower was at the junction of Cumberland Street,
in the foreground, and Tavistock Street.
National Monuments Record.

In 1940 the ARP used the basement of the Market as a control room but it was damaged in the air raids of April 1941.  A sign on a pillar in the basement indicated that it had previously been used as a garage for the Royal Hotel in Fore Street.

In November 1952 it was occupied only by a Mr Cecil E H Jones and Messrs Arthur E and Frederick G Marquand, the fruiterers.

The Market was taken inside the Royal Dockyard boundary in 1956 and became a Sale Store for the Principal Supply and Transport Officer (Navy).  Only the southernmost building has survived, along with the clock tower in the north-west corner, between Cumberland Street and Barrack Street.  It was released back into the public domain in 2014 and is in the process of being restored to its former glory.