Chester Market Revitalised

Chester Market has a definite buzz about it right now.

Over the years, for a number of reasons, the market had struggled with reducing footfall. What was once bustling with traders and shoppers had, over a period of time, been showing signs of decline. The relocation of Chester’s Bus Exchange from the Market’s doorstep, the long walk to the nearest Park & Ride stop on Frodsham Street, local parking policy and changes in shopping habits all contributed. The loss of some well-known neighbours, such as McDonald’s and Poundworld, didn’t help either.

Whilst some familiar faces are still there – the Candy Emporium selling ‘pick and mix’ sweets for over 51 years, Geoff Hughes the family butcher, the greengrocers, the wonderful Cheese Wedge stall and many more – the Market has become home to a collection of new food businesses.

Cleverly, some of the new stalls have had over-hanging counters and seating added, some of the places on the periphery of the hall are ‘eat in or out’ or you can grab a table in the middle of it all, the dining zone.

The food now ranges from high-end burgers to home-made lasagne, World food, even Thai food – cooked in a wok right in front of you. To top it all, you can now have a beer here too in That Beer Place.

It’s all a long way from the traditional greasy-spoon café’s you’d expect to find in a market.

Foodie Fridays

Word has spread among the web of local businesses in Chester and with late night opening on Friday nights, the Market has become the place to hang out after work to kickstart the weekend.

We are happily grazing our way around all of the different food counters here on ‘Foodie Fridays’ as we love supporting local, independent businesses – and it looks like younger customers are on the up here. It’s definitely going to be interesting to see if more non-food businesses who can serve this group of consumers are going to take a leap of faith and give it a try.

History of Chester Market

There was been a regular market in Chester since at least 1139ad. Goods were traded in and around what was known as Market Square but now more commonly known as Town Hall Square. Over time stalls spread along Northgate Street, Eastgate Street and their rows, which didn’t go down too well with the businesses already there.

By 1826 Chester’s Corporation recognised the need for order and began work on constructing a number of individual markets. Fish and vegetables shared a market to the south, butter and dairy was to the east, with meat and poultry to the north.

Consolidation of Chester’s individual markets

These separate markets all came together under one roof when the original Chester Market was built. The first stone was laid in a grand civic ceremony on Tuesday 8th April in 1862 on Northgate Street next to the site that would later become Chester Town Hall. The market opened it’s doors for the first time to the public on 10th March 1863 during the celebration of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s son, the Prince Of Wales who later became King Edward VII. The original Chester Market stood on Northgate Street for 104 years.

Despite local objections, the original beautiful Victorian Architecture – that complemented that of the Town Hall – was lost when it closed it’s doors for the last time on Saturday 17th June 1967 to be demolished. It made way for The Forum Shopping Centre and council offices.

At the time of writing Chester Market is on Princess Street, accessed via The Forum Shopping Centre or via steps on Princess Street itself.

A tiny sliver of the Original Chester Market façade remains – for now. Next to the Dublin Packet Pub, the small archway that leads to Hamilton Place and a couple of meters of wall was left standing to be incorporated into the newer buildings.

Wall from original Chester Market incorporated into modern buildings

Further reading

The excellent Chester Walls website has more detail and photographs of the original Chester Market.