Short History of The Market House
In 1082 after the Norman Conquest, William granted the manor of Hampton to the Convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen, which had been founded in 1062 by his wife Matilda of Flanders. Hence the name, Munchen (Nuns’) Hampton corrupted to Minchinhampton. Successive abbesses farmed the manor as absentee landlords – and in the 13th. Century the then abbess obtained a grant to hold a weekly market every Tuesday and an annual fair on the eve of the festival of the Sacred Trinity and on the three following days.
The right to a market passed through several changes of overlordship – Syon Abbey in 1424, Baron Lord Wyndsor in the 1530s – who had been evicted from his estate (Windsor) by Henry VIII who coveted it – and ultimately Samuel Sheppard in 1656, who had been steward to the Wyndsors, and whose house was on the land now occupied by the school playground. In 1698, his son Philip decided to build a Market House to house the successful wool and yarn market, and which, 4 years later was regarded as one of the four chief markets in the county.
Over the next few years, Tetbury took the lead as a wool market and the Minchinhampton fair became first, a sheep and cattle fair and then in the 19th. Century a horse fair. The Market House lost its main function and from then on was used for town activities – entertainment, education, town business, festivities, of which the following are examples:
The Bath Company of Comedians, 1732. Visited Minchinhampton in June, taking over the Market House and erecting a stage and benches. They performed three plays, The London Merchant, The Provoked Husband and The Beggars Opera. Local tradition holds that the 18th. century actress, Sarah Siddons, trod the boards here. It is her portrait that hangs in the Main Hall.
The Quakers, 1746.They requested and obtained permission from the Bishop of Gloucester to use the Market House as a place of worship, as they had no Meeting House of their own.
The Fire Engine 1755. By the mid-18th. Century the population was growing, It was a busy bustling town catering not only for local and nearby residents but also for visitors journeying to and from Bath and Cirencester and on north, accommodated in the numerous inns. So the Vestry now began to consider the provision of a fire engine. It was housed, temporarily, under the Market Hall but later was provided with a railed lock-up, in the 1860s, also in the under-croft.
The Lancasterian School 1816.David Ricardo, the Lord of the Manor, set up and paid for the schooling of poor children until his death in 1823. The school continued here until 1868 when the new school was built in Bell Lane.
Concerts and Fetes 1850s. Gas arrived in the town in 1850, so events could be held in the evenings.
Minchinhampton Improvement Society 1854 to 1875. This was the fore-runner to the Mechanics Institute. People across the country were becoming interested in the scientific principles behind Arts and Manufacturing. It was the pursuit by all of ‘Useful Knowledge’.
Under-Croft paved 1859.The under-croft and the streets of Minchinhampton were paved at the expense of the Lord of the Manor to celebrate his son’s wedding.
The Parish Council 1894.This was the date when, by government decree, the old vestries, small bodies of leading and interested parishioners who laid out the rules and governed the communities, were replaced by Elected Parish Councils. These annual elections were held in the Market House.
Transfer to the Parish 1920.David Ricardo transferred ownership of the Market House to the Parishioners of Minchinhampton.
Structural changes to the Building:
- 1859. Undercroft paved and cattle barriers erected.
- 1870. Removal of dormer windows.
- 1911. Rear staircase built. Heaters and vents to Hall installed.
- 1921. Memorial panel to dead of WW1 added.
- 1950. Stairs realigned and memorial panel added to those who fell in WW2. Part of Undercroft enclosed for toilets. Gas central heating installed. Stage moved to other end of Hall and new fire-escape added.
- 1975. Market House renovated.
- 1979. New constitution set up as a Trust, with the legal ownership vested in the Parish Council as Custodial Trustees and the running of the building undertaken by a Committee of Management as Managing Trustees.
- 1986. New floor installed.