The former indoor market in Burslem, one of the six towns within the city of Stoke-on-Trent, has been granted Grade 2 listed status.
Built in 1879, the market hall on Queen Street closed in 2003 and has since become derelict. In 2021, The Victorian Society named the former market amongst the top ten endangered buildings in the country.
An article published on their website describes the abandoned hall as telling “the story of Burslem’s rise and subsequent decline, with its ghost signs and fading advertisements from the Victorian era that still adorn several closed shops attached to the market hall’, going on to say its ‘gothic design and ironwork is reminiscent of King’s Cross station in London”.
In its heyday, the market housed 90 stalls and by the time it closed, this had fallen to 14, with most outlets being moved to a new site on William Clowes Street. The shops on Queen Street attached to the market building have since been used by several businesses, with the upper floors being converted into flats.
Quoted in the article, TV personality Griff Rhys Jones said the market was a “sad sight for those who remember it bustling with life” and called for it to be brought back into use as an initiative to revive the town.
Speaking to the BBC about the listing, Stewart Mee of Historic England said it would help to protect one of the city’s landmark buildings that “can be appreciated in the context of the Victorian town’s wealth and civic pride.”
He also added that “Overall, the building is an architecturally well-considered one with good quality detailing, which used innovative technology to achieve its scale and function”.
There have been attempts to bring the market hall back since it closed, including a £1.9mn plan to turn it into a centre for pottery, arts, crafts, and collectibles put forward by the city council. The plan was mothballed after Advantage West Midlands told the council they would have to contribute £700,000.
Speaking to the Sentinel, local historian Fred Hughes, who has written several books about Burslem, said it was “amazing news” for the town.
He added “I have always been of the opinion that the town has such historic value in terms of industry and manufacturing, that the whole of the centre – Wedgwood’s Burslem and Bennett’s Burslem – should be a grade II listed site. I am very pleased that this is the start of that journey.”
Also speaking to the Sentinel, Councillor Dan Jellyman cabinet member for infrastructure, regeneration, and heritage, said the listing was “fantastic news that the historic character and significance of the market had been recognised and that it had the “potential to become a great community facility”.
The council are believed to be carrying out feasibility studies into new uses for the market hall. This process may be difficult due to Stoke-on-Trent, along with other cities in the Midlands including Birmingham and Nottingham, missing out on the latest round of ‘levelling up’ funding.
Gaining Grade 2 listed status may provide some protection to Burslem’s historic former market hall, but more work needs to be done to secure its long-term future.
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