Market House

 

The Market House consists of the Town Hall standing on pillars above the Market Place. It was built in 1738 by TGB Estcourt for the holding of markets and fairs, replacing the old butter cross and a decrepit arcade used by farmers and traders to sell their goods. The Town Hall is reached by a stone staircase at the western end; this stair replaced (in 1824) an external one which obstructed passage of horse-drawn carts.

The Coat of Arms on the south side of the Town Hall is that of the Estcourt family who commissioned a copy of the arms at a cost of 13 guineas. Inside the Town Hall are photographs of Coats of Arms for the old Dursley Rural District Council and current Dursley Town Council. More historical items can be seen in the Town Hall, such as plaques from the Town Twinning Association, lists of the Mayors of Dursley and a display of items from the Dursley Male Voice Choir.

In 1699 the tower and steeple of St James Church collapsed and the parish petitioned the King for financial support for rebuilding.  Queen Anne responded in 1702 with a grant of £500 and, in gratitude, the townspeople erected her effigy under the eaves of the eastern side of the Town Hall.  Her sceptre and right arm are made of wood, and it is believed that this image of Queen Anne is unique in having remained in the same location since inception.

The fire bell on the Town Hall roof was cast in 1747 by the bellmaker Abel Rudhall, and bears the legend "Come Away Without Delay".  When it was rung the firemen would collect their ladders and equipment from storage in the Market Place.

In 1834 the Lord of the Manor sold the Market House to local philanthropist Henry Vizard who in turn gave it "on trust for the Bailiff and Aldermen of Dursley to be managed by them for the benefit of the inhabitants of Dursley".

From 1847 and until replaced by the Victoran police station (on the site now occupied by the Stroud and Swindon Building Society) the Town Hall housed the County Court.

In 1987 the Department of the Environment declared the building to have Grade II* listed status. Until 1998 the Town Hall was in the centre of a roundabout, strangled by traffic.  Realignment of the roads in the town centre, demolition of nearby buildings and the partial pedestrianisation of Parsonage Street have all helped to protect this important, historic building from traffic. You can see a historical account of Dursley Town Hall and Market Place from 1841 to 1994 at www.dursleyglos.org.uk. The building was renovated in 2014.