Wolverhampton's Locally Listed Buildings

The Markets Building

School Street

Listing:  Late 1950s market hall and offices above.  Architect: Borough Surveyor.  Excellent example of the Festival of Britain style of architecture.  Won Civic Trust Award 1960. Locally Listed, approved March 2000.

Awards:  Civic Trust Award 1960: "This is an excellent example of first class development. The site is an island one, originally known as Brick-kiln Croft and covered by derelict property.  From a purely architectural point of view the buildings have been dealt with in a most competent and imaginative manner and great use has been made of material and colour.  Technically the scheme is excellent and a great deal of thought and research has gone into the planning, resulting in a high standard of hygiene and a complete absence of all those unpleasant aspects usually associated with a market.  The open market is well laid out with standard stalls covered by many coloured awnings and the whole presents a very exciting and colourful picture.  It is surrounded by low brick walls and fences and becomes a pedestrian precinct.  Without question this scheme is a great contribution to the appearance of the locality and worthy of an award."

Comment:  The Civic Trust award has to be seen in its time, both as to the standard then expected and as to the critique of the architecture.  In 1960 it probably did look like a bright new feature in the townscape.  Since the award the low brick walls have disappeared, as has the then open market, which has been demolished and the stalls have moved round to the front.  Further the circular entrance block has been added, in about 2000.

This style of architecture was always more popular with architects than it was with the public.  This building has also been unpopular because people had a great affection for the old Retail Market (along with, presumably, "all those unpleasant aspects usually associated with a market" - whatever they are); and it was right at the other end of  the town centre.  Indeed this market has always suffered from being cut off from the rest of the shopping centre.  The "open market ... with standard stalls" was, in fact, a series of concrete pens, whose hideous aspect was not much compensated for by the awnings. And the awnings never have managed to offset the dull gray panels of the main facades. The new entrance tower remains a puzzle to the populace who do not seem to understand what it is for.  I think it is said to be a landmark, but really it has no function and its appearance gives credence to the view that form follows function.  To-day the area in front of the building awaits being turned into a large square with, facing the market building, a large block of shops and flats of a style that might be described as post-modern Italianate.  

Despite all that, the building and the stalls continue to function as a retail market, quite popular for shopping.  The idea is that, when Sainsbury's eventually build their new hypermarket on the other side of the ring road and the new piazza block is built, the market will finally become integrated with the shopping centre.  Keep your fingers crossed.