The heart of the Gravesend trade since 1268 AD
The first Gravesend Town Hall was erected in 1573 and the first market, of which we have a detailed description, was held on the ground floor and in the open space behind the building. However, the market had originally been established in 1268 by a grant given by Henry III to his faithful servant Robert de la Parrock of Parrock Manor.
In 1366, a second charter granted by Edward III established a market for the 'Men of the Town' independently from the manor and the day was changed to Thursday. It was this charter that gave the town its coat of arms – a boat with a mast rowed by hooded rowers and steered by a porcupine.
By 1562, it was suggested that the adjoining parishes of Milton and Gravesend were in decline because they did not have a market for both parishes. The response was a new Charter of Incorporation for the two parishes in 1568 which changed the day of the market to Wednesday and stipulated that a three day fair was to be held in January.
The first Town Hall was built five years later, but being in close proximity to the market did not please the Mayor and Councillors. They used oranges placed over their noses to avoid the unpleasant smell of fish and vegetables. The town hall included a ‘cage’ for prisoners and stocks.
Between 1669 and 1710 there are records of trees being planted in the Market yard to give shelter to the stallholders.
The market became the property of the corporation in 1694 when George Etkins sold the manor of Parrock. By the 18th century, it had become an open cobbled way with meat being sold on stalls on one side, cloth and clothes on the other, poultry in the middle and fish at the western end. In November 1817, a report recommended that the market be expanded at the cost of £2000 by a plan put forward by the architect, Charles Fowler.
The new building consisted of two covered colonnades, 80ft (24.3m) long. The Town Hall's impressive entrance was added in 1836. Designed by Amon Henry Wilds, the architect who also designed Harmer Street, it is said to based on the Temple of Minerva in Athens. The ornate Doric columns are 26ft (8m) high. At the end of the 1880s, the market was completely rebuilt in the form you see today.
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