The History of the Victorian Market

As the Royal Burgh of Inverness grew in size and population, particularly in the 19th century, the Town Council realised the need for a ‘Covered Market’. In Victorian Britain, many towns and cities had market arcades, with small shops and stalls in a long, narrow space, usually covered with iron girders and glass, often enclosing old alleyways.

In mediaeval Inverness there were market days and fairs throughout the year, some of them important social events as well as trading opportunities. In front of the Town House was the Mercat Cross, in an area called The Exchange. An officer in the Royal Engineers, Captain Edmund Burt, was stationed in Inverness in the 1730s and illustrated the Mercat Cross in a book. Burt gives a brief description of how business was conducted:

The Market-Cross is the Exchange of the
Merchants, and other Men of Business.
There they stand in the Middle of the dirty
Street, and are frequently interrupted in
their Negotiations by Horses and Carts,
which often separate them one from another
in the Midst of their Bargains or other Affairs.

The Victorian Market, Inverness

the Victorian Market:
balanced in its place,
framed in precise ironwork,
the central arcade:

meat and game, engagement rings,
hair-cuts and bagpipes,
the Railway Watch and Clock Shop –
I.J. Finkelstein’s –

Real vegetables on boxes
in the hall, just like
when the market was still new:
small boys in caps stare

from old photographs, next to
Nairn fishwives selling
in Scots; new candy, old toys.
Men dressed up in suits.

And before the big fire
Invernessians shopped
in gas-lit halls. A dog sat,
loyal by its stall.

© Jennifer Morag Henderson, January 2009

Jennifer Morag Henderson

Jennifer Morag Henderson

Poet

website

Timeline History of the Inverness Victorian Market

1870 – 1889

The New Market

May 25, 1870

The New Market

After discussing the issue of a ‘Covered Market’ at some length in 1869-70, Inverness Town Council decided to go ahead with a new building in a patch of disused land between Union Street and Queensgate. It opened on 25th May 1870 – so the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Victorian Market will be celebrated in 2020. “…the slight ceremony was of the most meagre description…” The opening of the original Victorian Market took…

Read more

The Great Fire

June 23, 1889

The Great Fire

Sunday 23rd June 1889, 12.20 a.m. The catastrophic fire which broke out just after midnight on the morning of Sunday 23rd June 1889 was the defining event in the history of the Inverness Victorian Market. The fire destroyed everything in the market and also threatened buildings in Academy Street and Union Street, including the important Music Hall, the scene of many important concerts and public gatherings. The fire was covered extensively in the local papers,…

Read more

The Faithful Dog

June 28, 1889

The Faithful Dog

After listing all of the tenants in the Market, the Inverness Courier noted that: “All the tenants above-mentioned have lost their effects. A few of the tradesmen succeeded in securing their books, but otherwise but little was saved. Messrs A. & D. Macdonald, fleshers, who, with praiseworthy promptitude, opened new premises in Union Street, yesterday morning, lost a valuable and faithful dog. He had been left in charge of the premises, and although an effort…

Read more

The Aftermath

June 28, 1889

The Music Hall on Union Street, one of the town’s most important venues for public meetings and entertainments, escaped destruction but suffered damage, requiring extensive renovation and repair. The Courier has the best description of how this important building was saved. Initial speculations about the cause of the fire were cautious, though it seemed clear that it was made much worse by the municipal gas supply. When the crowds began to disperse, the Courier describes…

Read more

The Market Re-Opened

September 8, 1891

We started this historical overview of the Victorian Market by noting the ‘meagre’ opening ceremonies which took place in 1870. Perhaps the civic dignitaries in 1891 had also read or remembered those accounts, because when the rebuilt and expanded market was formally opened at noon on Tuesday 8th September 1891 the Town Council made sure that it was the subject of an elaborate ceremonial occasion. The Scottish Highlander sets the scene with a long article…

Read more

What’s Next?

August 6, 2018

Further research into the history of the Inverness Victorian Market will continue. There are several very promising lines of enquiry to be explored: VALUATION ROLLS Pilot project: creating a database of all stall-holders, based on the annual printed Valuation Rolls, which calculated the rateable value of all properties; In the first instance, the database will cover the years 1887-1920, but the intention is to extend it as far as records allow; This work, using records…

Read more

Hours

Monday: 7am – 6.30pm
Tuesday: 7am – 6.30pm
Wednesday: 7am – 6.30pm
Thursday: 7am – 6.30pm
Friday: 7am – 6.30pm
Saturday: 7am – 6pm
Sunday: CLOSED
Sunday opening will resume Easter Sunday – 21st April 2019

* Opening times vary with each Market Retailer