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News from Minchinhampton Market House

Just before the first Covid lockdown in 2020 the Market House management committee had arranged for a set of historical posters and images to be put on permanent display in the building. They aim to be both decorative and informative on the history of the Market House.

Owing to the curtailment of use of the Market House over the last 14 months, not many of the regular visitors to shows, plays, films, music, markets, exhibitions and other functions have been inside the place to take a look at the display. This should be something of local interest to catch up with when ‘normality’ returns.

Lining the stairway are enlarged and digitised posters from the 19th century, mostly advertising events arranged by the Minchinhampton Mutual Improvement Association. The bold print on the posters is surprising enough – A LECTURE ON LECTURING, SEARCH FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE, THE ETHIOPIAN SERANADERS (patronised by the young ,old, grave & gay), SOCIAL BORES, MUSCULAR CONTRACTION OF A DEAD RABBIT, LEGERDEMAIN CAREFULLY EXPLAINED,… but the enjoyment is in the small print, as every bank customer and credit card holder knows. The posters’ small print holds a mirror up to life in the middle 19th century which will be there to entertain future visitors to, and clients of, the Market House.

One of the images in the display, showing influential people through history involved with the Market House, is that of Fenning Parke, who was Master of a school at the Market House from the age of 17 until his retirement in 1863.

He was also involved with the Improvement Association, engaging demonstrations and speakers, generally to full houses. There was no heating in the building, and no efficient lighting, so it was quite an achievement for Parke to sustain the Market House as a going concern. In those days, there was little preservation ethic for old, unused, crumbling buildings. Two of the original three market houses in the town have long since been demolished.

There can be little doubt that Minchinhampton owes a debt to Fenning Parke for his energy and drive, in his time, helping keep the Market House preserved as a cultural centre of the town .

Further information & queries contact Alan Vaughan

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