Here we take a look back at the history of Cardigan Market Hall to coincide with the new refurbishments that are being done.

The beginnings of the market hall did not go smoothly, and it took more than two decades for it to be put in motion.

Plans were initially drawn up for a market hall in Cardigan in 1843 but were shelved when opposition from the Priory’s Philip John Miles resulted in a failed Bill in Parliament.

Tivyside Advertiser: Christmas 1898 in the Cardigan Market HallChristmas 1898 in the Cardigan Market Hall

A resurgence of the plans came in 1854 when Cardigan mayor William Griffith George instigated the idea, with the site of the Free School being chosen the following year.

Plans were requested on November 11, 1856, at a borough council meeting: “It is ordered that Mr Withers be requested to make out the plans and specifications for a Market House in detail and forwarded to the Town Clerk without delay.”

The plans were submitted by architect R J Withers and approved on May 8. He was given an initial payment of £59.8s.10d.

Parliament approved the plans with the approval of the Cardigan Markets and Improvements Act with the plans to put the market on the site of the Free School.

It was the first municipal building in the British Isles to use the Ruskinian Gothic architectural style.

David Jenkins, John Davies and John Thomas were the builders who were tasked with building the market hall and a grammar school and guildhall.

The work was priced at £2,174.15s.0d for the market hall. The demolition of the school began that year.

There was a small hiccup in the plans when in August 1857, Mr Withers was dismissed by Cardigan Borough Council after a disagreement over his fees. However, he was reinstated by the end of the month.

Tivyside Advertiser: The market around 1905. Picture: Tom DesmondThe market around 1905. Picture: Tom Desmond

On July 8, the foundation stone was laid by mayor Richard David Jenkins at an event attended by local dignitaries.

Prior to this, the council had said the plans were ‘totally inadequate to the wants of the town’, Mr Withers responded on March 6 with amended plans and requesting further payment.

The plans changed again when on May 24, the council extended the Guildhall by 11ft and would build over the market arch.

The market officially opened at 6am on July 9, 1860. Five days later, there had to be calico hung from the ceiling to keep the sunlight off the meat.

On May 22, 1896, Benjamin James – mayor of Cardigan – proposed replacing the arches in the market with cast iron pillars, saying: “… grand arches our forefathers were so foolish enough to build.”

He was not successful in this, and on April 18, 1902, the proposal was again put forward. It was put forward two more times, in 1908 and 1911.

Tenders were sought on January 4, 1907, to rent the lower market as a warehouse and the following day, the council resolved to use it as a store for traps.

On March 17, 1911, there were proposals to alter the Upper Market by removing the stone flags and laying timber, removing the arches, the installation of new windows and putting a cover over the courtyard.

The plans were approved but nothing came of them due to support for the plans quickly diminishing.


A suggestion was made the following March to use the Upper Market as a public hall.

Proposals were put forward on February 12, 1937, to turn part of the Corn Market into a reading room and the council considered selling the public buildings a month later.

The German gun that was stored in the Lower Market was scrapped in April and on June 18, the council decided that all rubbish should be cleared out of the Lower Market as it was “a breeding place for rats.”

As the Second World War began, focus turned to community efforts with plans made to turn the meat market into a social centre for the troops in January 1941.

Plans were submitted to hold a boxing match at the meat market but was refused by the council on July 20, 1945, causing backlash.

The Corn Market was still being considered for a reading room and more concrete plans were submitted on August 13, 1948, for it to be used as a library

The library opened on February 5, 1950. A decision was then made for a boxing match to be allowed to take place in the market, which saw the resignation of Cllr Rosina Davies in protest.

There was a call for the Guildhall market to be replaced by a parking ground on January 11, 1952, and on February 1, 1957, proposals were made for a museum in the Lower Market.

Tivyside Advertiser: The upper market in 1970. Picture: Gerry CollinsThe upper market in 1970. Picture: Gerry Collins

There was good news for the preservation of the building when in 1961, the Guildhall and Markets complex was given listed building status.

That same year, Cllr R.C Vernon Smith suggested converting the market into a shopping centre. Plans to create a new Guildhall Shopping Arcade came in 1963, to the traders’ dismay and the plans were dropped on June 12, 1964.

Proposals were put forward on January 21, 1966, to put gates on the archway leading to the Upper Market, with proposals for a new staircase from the Upper to Lower Markets the following year.

On January 17, 1969, it was proposed to open up the Lower Market in a £7,000 scheme. Major renovations included a new staircase, new ceilings and asbestos walls.

By February 6, 1970, gates had been erected at the market arch. Proposals to open up the arches continued.

Work had begun in March 1995 to restore the Upper Market, removing asbestos panels and false ceilings, exposing the original structure.

A medieval day market was held in August that year, and annually for a further four years.

Tivyside Advertiser: Lower Market in 2018. Picture: Glen K JohnsonLower Market in 2018. Picture: Glen K Johnson

There were proposals by Menter Aberteifi to replace the Upper Market with the Town Library, add a tower containing a lift to the NW angle of the Market Hall, block the existing market arch and open up two of the centre arches from Pendre, and add an extra storey above the former school rooms to the south.

In May 2004 the building was leased to Menter Aberteifi. In January 2006 work began on a refurbishment and strengthening of the floors. Alterations including the opening of the arches, were proposed.

In August 2007 work began on a new lift shaft and other alterations.

In late October 2008 work began on re-opening the two centre arches to serve as doors. In July 2009 a gallery occupied the former Corn Market. By 2010 the complex was fully operational again.

With thanks to Glen Johnson for the information.