This old building is of great historical and architectural importance. In the middle ages it was customary for Markets and Fairs to be held in Churchyards, but in the reign of Edward III a Law was passed to prohibit such activities on Church premises and the Markets transferred to some adjacent site nearby.
The site upon which the Market House now stands was previously used as Market Place and records show that in 1791 a small market building stood on the site.
It was totally inadequate for the needs of a growing market town and in 1842 an Act of Parliament was given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria to permit the people of St Austell to build a Market House and Town Hall on the site.
Designed by Cope and Eales of London and built by Oliver Stone and Sons of Falmouth the Market House was opened in 1844. Then versatile layout of the Market House has allowed for a variety of uses over time.
- The granite for the building was brought from local quarries by horse and cart. The finely tooled and decorated front facade is most likely Carn Grey granite from Trethurgy. The front steps of the building are made of the same stone. Local stonemasons carried out the cutting and the shaping of it from details geometric drawings.
- Inside the front entrance, under an extensive vaulted ceiling, was an area set aside for farm produce.
- The Butchers' market was held in the centre of the ground floor.
- The magnificent vaulted timber ceiling is further testimony to the skills and craftmanship of the local people of the time. Constructed from yellow pine, the main beams are over 50 feet long. It is thought to have been the largest unsupported single span wooden roof in Europe at the time.
- Stone stairways on either side of the Butchers' market lead up to the first floor where fruit, vegetables, poultry, butter and the general dealers' stalls were once held. An old display board of fees is still visible above the stairwell.
- The large room on the first floor with its windows looking out onto Holy Trinity Church was once the Town Hall. It was briefly converted to a cinema around 1914. A hand operated projector was used for showing silent films with musical accompaniment provided by someone playing the piano. It later became a dance hall, locally known as 'Hell's Kitchen' with fights occasionally occurring outside on a Saturday night. It has also served as the regional branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and latterly as Evans' Hardware Store for many years, now sadly closed.
- The gallery above the rear of the first floor is level with Market Hill to the North of the building. Originally this was used as a corn market and then part became used as a fire station that in 1891 housed 'Margaret' a horse drawn fire engine with a hand pump. The gallery has also been the stage for political meetings
- Run off water from the roof was collected down large pipes that serve as pillars in the centre of the first floor and was collected in a chamber below the floor which provided a ready source of water for the fire engine. A fire bell once hung in a wooden tower above the entrance.
- On the ground floor, off Market Street there are two police lock up cells.
Granite from Carn Grey
Vaulted Granite Ceiling
Vaulted Wooden Ceiling
Fees Display Board