Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 26, 2017
Webpage updated: April 21, 2020




The principal entrance to the Plymouth Markets below the Corn Exchange
on the corner of East Street, to the left, and Market Place, to the right, 1952.
The Market Gates have been especially closed for the photograph to show the Coats of Arms.
  City of Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery.

To be able to hold a market was a privilege and in the Plymouth area the only man who could grant that privilege was the Prior of Plympton, who held the right from the King.  In those days the market was known as the Shambles, or more properly the "Fleschshambles" as it mainly dealt with the sale of meat.

The first grant of a market in Plymouth was made in the year 1253, in the time of King Henry III, when it was to be held on Thursdays and accompanied by a 3-day fair at the festival of John the Baptist.

In 1257 Baldwin of the Isle, otherwise known as Baldwin de Redvers, Earl of Devon and Lord of the Manor of Plympton, was granted a market on Wednesdays, with another 3-day fair, this time at the festival of the Ascension but it is thought that this Market was never held.

Then in 1311 Matthew, the Prior of Plympton, let to the burgesses of Sutton 18 market stalls adjoining a stone cross.  The rent was one penny per stall per year.  It appears to have been of a permanent nature as it had a Market House, with a bell, as work was done on it in 1564, 1571 and in 1590.  The stone cross was presumably the Market Cross that was removed from the bottom of Holy Cross Lane after the Shambles had been erected in connection with the 1606 Guild Hall.  The granite pillars were bought by Mr James Bagg in 1610 for 40 shillings.

A Fish Market was erected against the wall surrounding Saint Andrew's Churchyard in 1601.  It cost 18 19s 4d.

A Corn Market House had existed in 1539.  This was replaced by a new building in 1625-26 but in 1627 it was torn down to be rebuilt 'above higher mill'.

In 1653 a Yarn Market was built in Old Town at a cost of 6 14s 6d.  However, it is also stated that a Yarn Market was held weekly in the churchyard of Saint Andrew's in the seventeenth century and clothiers from all over Devon and Somerset used to gather in Old Town every November for a Cloth Fair.

The Shambles were moved to a new building in Old Town in 1656.  On the first floor was the Leather Hall.

Worth also refers to 'The Old Green Market' that was on the south side of Whimple Street around that time.

The fish merchants were forced to move their Fish Shambles form the churchyard across the road into Whimple Street in 1693.  The building later became known as the Old Fish Cage.  It was demolished in 1789 in preparation for a Royal visit.  The Fish Market then moved to the Shambles beneath the old Guild Hall in Whimple Street and after that to some old Almshouses north of the churchyard.  There was also a Pig Market to the west of Saint Andrew's Church.

But the Market facilities in the Borough were totally inadequate for the amount of trade being undertaken so a tontine loan was raised and a new Market building was erected in a field off Old Town Street.  The new Plymouth Pannier Market was opened in 1807.

The Fish Shambles were removed from near Saint Andrew's Church in 1813, a new Cattle Market was opened in Glanville Street by 1847 and in 1894 a new Corn Exchange was opened.  In 1896 a Fish Market was opened on the Barbican.

The Pannier Market building survived for over a century and a half.  It somehow managed to go through the Second World War almost unscathed, although some of the premises on the Corn Exchange side in East Street were damaged or destroyed.  It is not known when the Cattle Market was last used.

On Saturday July1st 1950 it was reported that work had been started on a new slaughter house and wholesale meat market at Prince Rock.  This was expected to cost around 27,903 and would replace the Corporation slaughter houses at Library Lane, East Stonehouse and Compton.  When completed in about twelve months time the wholesale meat market will move to Prince Rock.  Retail butchers will remain at the Pannier Market.  At that time the Ministry of Food was purchasing all meat and delivering to the retail trade through the Wholesale Meat Supply Association.

In the post-war reconstruction "Plan for Plymouth" the Pannier Market complex got in the way of the planned straight roads of the new City so it had to be demolished.  The Meat Market, Corn Exchange and "Tin Pan Alley" closed in 1952 and were quickly demolished.  The remaining part of the Pannier Market closed in September 1959.

In the meantime a new Pannier Market was built between Cornwall Street and New George Street, at the opposite end of the City Centre, and this was opened in September 1959.  In  2008 it's name was changed to the Plymouth City Market, panniers having long been a thing of the past.