The story of Britain's market halls-built to replace traditional open-air markets throughout England, Wales, and Scotland-is a tale of exuberant architecture, civic pride, and attempts at social engineering. This book is the first history of the market hall, an immensely important building type that revolutionized the way Britons obtained their consumer goods. James Schmiechen and Kenneth Carls investigate the economic, cultural, political, and social forces that led to the construction of several hundred market buildings in the two centuries after 1750. The market hall was frequently vast in scale, revolutionary in plan, and elaborately ornamented-indeed, it was often the most important architectural statement a proud town might make.
Drawing on a wide range of contemporary records, the authors show how municipal authorities used market buildings to improve the supply and distribution of food, convey social ideals, control social and economic behavior, and declare a town's virtues. For the Victorians, Schmiechen and Carls argue, the enormous investment of energy, seriousness, and funding in the market hall reflected a belief that architecture was a primary agent of social reform and improvement. Generously illustrated with more than 180 drawings and photographs, this book also includes a Gazetteer with information about some 300 specific market buildings.