The redevelopment of Chester Marketplace – more imminent changes

Yesterday I posted about the vision for the new shopping and parking complex in Chester based around the Town Hall and the former library (a.k.a. the Motor Works).  Today I wandered into another relevant website, which describes the upcoming move of the market to a new location in 2022.

This website is entitled Chester Market and can be found at  Their vision is captured in a poem of sorts on their home page.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Tune in to the modern vibe… and the tribes of butchers and bakers, artists and makers… Creating the reasons for trying and buying, playing and staying… Sharing and caring…for people and planet.
Balancing learning, entertaining…and playing tasting the best – not wasting what’s left…in our city we invest.
The heartbeat and art-beat of Chester combine… Reaching out and drawing in… The young and the old… the shy and the bold. Fathers and mothers… Significant others… 

Most of the website is a bit like that, full of chunky soundbites and big colourful blocks of texts and organic, leafy motifs (Matisse might have done a somewhat aggrieved double-take at bits of it).

On the other hand, the history page has this wonderful photograph in its favour.

Here’s the description that goes with it, genuinely interesting if a tad brief:

Chester’s market charter was granted in 1159.  The markets were originally hosted on the streets and Rows, with the focus in Market Square, outside the current Forum entrance.

The first permanent building was the Exchange, built in the square in 1692 until it burned down in 1862. It was replaced by a grand Victorian construction in 1865, designed to complement the new Town Hall next door, although sadly this was demolished in 1967 and replaced by the current Forum building.

A second photograph below, from Wikipedia, but without attribution to an original source, is also excellent.  What it was replaced with was really bad, but even if it had been something halfway acceptable, the loss of this façade was tragic, a lapse of judgement and a thorough abdication of cultural responsibility.  Heritage was simply swept aside, and for what?  One wonders what went on behind closed doors.

The 1865 marketplace façade, next to the town hall, torn down in 1967. Absolute tragedy. Source: Chester ShoutWiki

Quite by coincidence, a few weeks ago I took this photograph as I was attending the Local List  Workshop, and was on the lookout for anything slightly unusual or amusing.  This turned out to be the tragic sole remainder of that wonderful façade.

I am just hoping that the 2022 version of the market and town hall square heads us in the right direction.  Here’s their stated ambition:

“The vision driving the new market is to be a ‘modern traditional market’ that takes the best of the new breed of thriving city produce markets such as Borough Market in London, Barcelona market, combined with communal foodhall markets such as Altrincham and Liverpool’s Baltic.”

The entrance to the market as it looks at the moment

It’s a laudable ambition, but we will just have to see how it looks and feels when it comes to using itThe website states:  “Applications have now closed to trade at the new Chester Market. We expect to announce which traders have been successful over the summer.”  When the market moves, I sincerely hope that Mr Fernyhough the butcher, from where I buy game, is going with them.  I’ll ask him when I see him.

I am all in favour of a programme change for the more demoralized corners of Chester, including removal of some of the ugliest  previous attempts to revive it.  In this particular convergence of some great buildings, (Chester Cathedral, the Motor Works, the Town Hall and even the Story House) the space between them should be a vibrant and attractive place for people to enjoy, a  Cestrian piazza, so the hope is all there.  I am balancing optimism against past experience, but crossing fingers that the change will be substantially better, and will deliver something that everyone can feel good about.  

Architect’s impression of what the new marketplace will look like.  Source:  Chester Market website

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