Titchfield Market Hall comes originally from the small town of Titchfield in Hampshire and dates from the 1620s. It sat in the centre of the town’s central square, in the middle of the High Street, in front of what is now the Bugle Hotel. Its story is one familiar to many medieval market halls across England.
In 1535, we know that Titchfield had a thriving market, complete with a ‘Clerk of the market’, an official whose job it was to regulate traders and their wares, which included tasting the ale and bread on offer for quality and value.
Market and fair days brought an influx of people into a town. Itinerant traders like pedlars and chapman might set up their stalls alongside local farmers selling grain or fresh produce; merchants met up with suppliers to arrange business deals; travelling players and musicians entertained the public and refreshment was taken at local inns or ale houses. They were typically lively, colourful, noisy and highly sociable events.
Despite its once busy market, by the 1580s there is no mention of a market in Titchfield in historic records. We believe that Titchfield Market Hall was built by Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, perhaps in an attempt to revive the town’s once vibrant commerce.
Perhaps this worked for a time, but court records from 1654, state that the Market Hall was ‘in decay for want of repairing’ and the fourth Earl, as the then lord of the manor, was ordered to repair it at ‘his own costs and charges’.
Titchfield Market Hall’s fate did not improve however. It is shown in its original position in the middle of the square on an estate map of 1753 but in the early 19th century (probably around 1810) it was relocated to a lesser position in the town.
By this date, many market halls had become redundant. Moreover, their location in the middle of the street caused an obstruction to the increasing volume of wheeled traffic, and the crush and noise of market days had become distasteful to a town’s more ‘polite’ inhabitants.
By 1968, Titchfield Market Hall was in an even worse state, with a demolition order placed upon it and deemed too dangerous to grant public access. It was at this point that the Weald & Downland Living Museum was approached.
The Museum supported efforts to retain and repair the hall in situ, which is our preferred option wherever possible. These efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and as a last resort to rescue it, the Market Hall was offered to the Museum. With only a week’s notice of its pending demolition, the Museum work force, which numbered only five in those days, set about dismantling it. It came to rest in its new home at the Museum, rebuilt in 1974.