Enter the ‘Bath Guildhall Market’ passing under the sign at the Bridge Street entrance near the Pulteney Bridge and you will be walking in the footsteps of merchants, traders and customers from around 800 years ago to the earliest records of a market taking place on this site.
The present building dates back to the 1770’s and a merchant from those days would still be able to recognise the general layout of the indoor market. They may well notice the glass dome that was added in 1863 over the central part of the market and that due to redevelopment in the 1890’s the floor space of the market is much smaller than in the original building. Even in the late Victorian era redevelopment took place wiping out buildings that had stood for over a hundred years.
The visitor from the 1770’s would be amazed at the variety of goods on offer. There are still the traditional part of every British market; the butcher and greengrocer which our visitor would have recognised. What they would have had trouble recognising would be the hardware products on one stall including stainless steel kitchen equipment. They would also have had difficulty understanding the concept of recorded music.
My favourite stall where I lingered and foraged was the one selling second hand paperbacks. I was specifically looking for a collection of essays by George Orwell that I had read at school and I mentioned in my piece ‘Garden Border, George Orwell & Slag Heaps’. I was also on the hunt for one of Virginia Woolf’s readers where she explores her literary style.
The bookstall is laid out in clear defined sections but despite going through the ‘classical’ and ‘literature’ sections my search for these two tomes was unsuccessful. The visitor from the 1770’s may well have recognised some of the titles in the classics section; Plato, Socrates and Defoe and would have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume and style that present day books have taken compared to the formal leather bound luxury items that would have been read and cherished in their day.
Enough of books and markets and onwards to Pulteney Bridge.