Tunstall’s heritage market, which is now one of the best indoor markets in the UK, celebrated its bicentenary on September 20, 2017.
In 1816, Tunstall’s chief constable, pottery manufacturer John Henry Clive, founded a company to build a Magistrates’ Courthouse and create a Market Place.
The company leased three-quarters of an acre of sloping ground called Stoney Croft from Walter Sneyd, the Lord of the Manor. It built a courthouse and laid out a market place, which later became Tower Square, on the site.
A two-storey stone building, the courthouse had a fire station with two fire engines and a market hall on the ground floor where eggs, butter, milk and cheese were sold when the market opened. The building faced eastwards. It was erected about halfway up the slope. Steps led from the lower part of the Market Place, where stalls were set up on market day, to the market hall’s main entrance.
Beneath the market hall was the town lock up – a dark, foul-smelling dungeon where prisoners were held while awaiting trial. The stocks stood at the foot of the steps leading to the market hall. Six hours in the stocks or a fine of five shillings was the usual penalty for being drunk and disorderly.
The company placed an advertisement in the Staffordshire Advertiser on September 13, 1817, which read: “Notice is hereby given that henceforward a market will be held at Tunstall, in the Potteries, weekly on Saturdays in front of the Court-House. The first to be on Saturday, 20 September. Stalls and standings free.”
Tunstall Market was both a retail market and a wholesale market. Retailers sold fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and salt. Horse-drawn waggons brought dairy produce, fruit and vegetables to the wholesale market which attracted retailers from Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Longton and Fenton.
An Act of Parliament passed in 1840 created the Tunstall Market Company to manage the market. In 1847, the company sold the market for £6,500 to the town’s Improvement Commissioners. Shortly afterwards, the commissioners allowed dealers to sell hay and straw there. In 1855, the Improvement Commissioners were replaced by a Board of Health. The Board of Health managed the market until 1894 when Boards of Health were abolished, and Urban District Councils were created to replace them. Tunstall Urban District Council ran the market until 1910 when the “six towns amalgamated” to form the County Borough of Stoke-on-Trent.