Newent Market House
A historical Market Square
Around the market square are a number of buildings of note. The Red Lion pub dates well before the 19th century and features a large public room on the first floor. Toad Hall, opposite, was a very popular pub for those visiting the market. Corner Shop Designers was, in history, ‘upgraded’ by rendering over in plaster, however, a short time later the render was removed to expose the original oak frame again, despite objections from the local planning authority!
The town centre featured many half-timbered buildings similar to the one across Church Street, now occupied by Gooch Sports. The large brick building opposite was originally identical in its construction, however it was later ‘modernised’ by cladding it in brick, hence the thicker walls on the ground floor if you look through the windows.
Probably the Market Square’s most famous resident was pioneering 1960s record producer, Joe Meek, born in the townhouse, just beyond the Market House. Recognised as the pioneering father of studio sound technology; with reverb, echo and compression being his original ideas, he led a troubled life, which ended in murder and suicide in London. His recordings of Telstar, Have I the Right and Johnny, Remember Me, (part of a 1000 song catalogue), sold over 20 Million copies between them.[/fusion_tagline_box]
The Market House bears many similarities to the Market Hall in nearby Ledbury and carries the signature of the Dutch builder, a ball and flute, which can be clearly seen on the under-beams. The substantial posts have been repaired at ground level many times, indicating that there is little foundation; the weight of the building is all that keeps it in place.
The building features an internal stained glass window with the coat of arms of Richard Foley Onslow and his wife. The Onslow family owned the building until 1913 when ownership transferred to Henry William Bruton and James Bruton. Shortly afterwards they donated the building to the Town. It is now owned and operated by the Newent Town Council.
During most of the 20th century it wasn’t open for general use and was only used occasionally for band practice. Now, during the summer months at weekends it is open to visitors where they can view the Heritage Exhibition, which includes information boards and many old photographs, notes and documents. The interior is always laid out for Council, Onion Fayre and other official meetings.
A special section has been dedicated to Willium Chapman, Newent’s popular town crier for many years who died in 2007. A glass case displays a scale model of a local grand house The Holts’, which was used in a manslaughter case held at the Old Bailey. The site of the former doctor’s residence is now the town’s Health Centre.
Located at the town’s original crossroad, when the main route to Gloucester followed Bury Bar Lane, it remains true to it’s original design, bar the addition of the rounded extension on the south east end, added in 1864 by Lord of the Manor, Richard Foley Onslow.[/fusion_tagline_box] For a period of time at the beginning of the 1900s the Market House was used as a fire station. Side screens and doors were added to house the manual fire
tender, which was manned by eight volunteer firemen.
The Market was very popular in its day, held on the site now occupied by the Memorial Hall. It saw all kinds of livestock including horses, sheep and pigs as well as the usual cattle, come under the auctioneer’s hammer. There was also a small weighbridge at the end of the Market House, where the telephone box is now located, for those bringing produce to market.
The water trough was added to the front of the Market House in 1909 for the watering of horses and livestock – it carries a memorial to the Onslow family.
However not all of the Market Square’s history is pleasant. There is evidence of bull baiting and a bull ring, plus a set of stocks and a whipping post for offenders in use before the times of a proper judicial system.
Thankfully, today the square is the focus of good things including the ever popular Onion Fayre, Newent in Bloom, Newent Festival and the Christmas celebrations.