The town's jewel in the crown... delving into the proud heritage of Mold High Street

Reporter:

Gwyn Griffiths

It is often regarded as the jewel in Mold’s crown and never more so than at Christmas.

The town’s street market is reputed to be the biggest in the region and those who flock in for its twice-weekly trade on Wednesdays and Saturdays have indulged themselves at a Celtic Christmas Fayre, aimed at cementing Mold’s reputation as a top North Wales festive destination.

The event ran until yesterday and replaced one held at Broughton Shopping Park. There were 150 traders mingling in with the street market regulars.

It was expected to bring thousands of extra shoppers to Mold and give the town’s retailers a boost. Not only that, it helped maintain the importance the market has played in the town centre’s history.

Local historian David Rowe has amassed a collection of photos of Mold, with many a vivid portrayal of market days through the years stretching back more than a century to when the Assembly Hall was the main focal point.

Now a branch of Lloyds Bank, the hall once housed an indoor market on the ground floor and its rooms above hosted meetings and concerts.

It has a rich history, intertwined with celebrities. General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, preached to the masses from underneath its balconies in 1912, while on January 24, 1963 the then Assembly Rooms played host to The Beatles.

“The Assembly Hall was built so the butchers’ market could come off the High Street,” explains David, who displayed some of his collection at a ‘Historic Mold’ exhibition at the Town Hall during October in aid of Mold mayor Bob Gaffey’s Bailey Hill Restoration charity – and at Tyddyn Street Church’s history group exhibition during the Daniel Owen Festival.

“Previously, the old leet courthouse of the manor of Mold stood on the site where the assizes were also held. The Mold Market Company was formed in order to demolish the courthouse building and to provide a permanent home for the wooden butchers’ shambles and traders stalls which were built in the street.”

Mold Local board purchased the Cross market in 1882 for £2,500 and it was the town’s only covered market until 1976, when a new indoor market was established at the Daniel Owen Precinct.

The Assembly Hall grew to dominate the town’s Cross, not only as a market, but as a meeting place. A second storey was built in 1874 with money bequeathed to the town’s MP and £540 profit generated from hosting the National Eisteddfod in 1873.

A library was operated above the town’s commercial hub by Mold’s Cosmopolitan Society.

In an 1876 trade directory the thriving Hall was described in glowing tones: “The new market hall, which is used chiefly for the sale of butcher’s meat, is the property of a private company, and has a very central position.

“Over the market is a fine assembly room suitable for entertainments and the old Market House Street is nearly deserted having at present only two tenants.”

Its central position in the town meant it was perfectly placed for the proclamation of the ascension of George V, while in the 1920s Mold Kinema Company found a home for its projector powered by a generator. The patrons would sit on either benches or forms to watch silent movies accompanied by a pianist.

There were even special effects on offer, with many recalling a film about the First World War, which was accompanied by yellow filters used to simulate a gas attack.

A third floor was later added to the hall. In later years it became a venue and nightclub, before it was taken down in 1985. It was from there The Beatles played just weeks before their stardom was sealed by three consecutive number one hits: From Me to You, She Loves You’ and I Want to Hold Your Hand.

For their performance the Fab Four were paid £50. While this was below what other venues were prepared to pay in 1963, it was a concert band manager Brian Epstein insisted went ahead even though The Beatles had featured at a Liverpool record store earlier that day.

Mold’s street market was established after the town was founded in around 1100 by Britain’s Norman conquestors, who drew up the layout of the High Street wide enough to accommodate market traders and beast sales.

Extending from the Cross to Bailey Hill, the stalls initially fronted the shops of merchants and tradesmen. Later a ‘beast market’ arrived in Grosvenor Street.

A 1653 survey for the then Lord of the Manor, Earl of Derby, includes details of two fairs which would have been held in the High Street. While the annual fairs are no longer held, the tradition of the twice-weekly street market continues to this day.

Many of Mold’s market traders have been loyal to the town for years, while those who have moved on or passed are fondly recalled – such as book dealer and collector H.W. Bradley, a well-known figure on the High Street for many years.

He plied his trade on open-air markets across the region into the mid-1960s and was an authority on old books.

Bradley refused offers to export rare books and believed they should be kept in their home towns, although he was prepared to ruffle the feathers of locals when he disclosed the winning design for the 1933 Eisteddfod poster was a copy of the frontispiece of a book published in 1794 by Edward James, Bard to the Prince of Wales, entitled The Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards.

l Photographs courtesy of David Rowe, Rhiannon Griffiths, Eric Keen, the late Ray Davies and Mold and District Civic Society.

Email:

gwyn.griffiths@nwn.co.uk

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