Sunday, November 18, 2012

Market Hall, Louth

click photo to enlarge
The nineteenth century English market hall is usually a combination of the decorative and the strictly functional. The aim is to provide an open covered space where traders can sell from stalls and people can browse their wares, safe from the vagaries of the weather. They are, like the rather grander glazed arcades, an early shopping mall, though market halls tend to cater for less expensive or fresh goods of the kind seen on open market stalls. So, the utilitarian aspect of their design usually relates to the provision of the large, covered space, and the decorative features are at their most pronounced on the main elevation. In this respect they are not unlike that other characteristically nineteenth century building, the corn exchange, where the structure is both a commercial undertaking and a symbol of civic pride.

The market hall at Louth in Lincolnshire exemplifies all these characteristics particularly well. It was built in 1866-7 by the Louth architects, Rogers and Marsden. This firm had a reasonably wide range of commissions including churches, church restoration, vicarages etc. With Louth market hall's facade they adopted a Byzantine Gothic style featuring a set-back, narrow, spired, clock tower (too narrow for me) between two flanking wings. The structure uses mainly red brick with stone and yellow brick details. The wings have shops at the base, a fine row of round-arched windows above with rather nice pointed dripmoulds lined by string-moulding. Below the gutter is a fine cornice, and the whole is topped by Welsh slate. One unusual feature of the facade - that doesn't work for me - is the fact that the main entrance is set so far back as to be lost in shadow: this de-emphasises it rather than drawing the eye.

The back of the building is quite a contrast, owing more to industrial buildings or train sheds than an acknowledged historical style. In some respects I like it more than the front. It's big, bold, functional, eye-catching in the narrow street, and has nice details, especially the two doors with their scroll hinges. The unadorned metal of the semi-circular window arch with its rivets showing is great, even if the scalloped wind-bracing at the corners of the rectangular window lights detracts from the industrial aesthetic.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 17mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/20
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: N/A