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‘The business life of the community’ – Lisburn Market

Our latest Virtual Museum post is a snapshot of what is undoubtedly Lisburn’s oldest tradition, market day. This striking photograph, taken around the turn of the last century captures the hustle and bustle of Lisburn’s vibrant weekly market. Each week traders lined out their wares in the area just outside the Market House, the building which is now the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum.

Lisburn’s ‘market day’ is an integral part of the town’s long social and economic history. Beginning under Sir Fulke Conway, then under Sir George Rawdon (1604-1684), the Agent for the Conways, the town of Lisnagarvey (later Lisburn) developed around the Market Place area, now Market Square. This area quickly became commercial heart of the growing town. As with other Irish plantation towns, Lisnagarvey held a weekly market where local traders could sell their produce and contribute to the town’s prosperity.

Lisburn Market Day c.1900s (ILC&LM Collection).

It was under King Charles I, that Sir Edward, The 1st Viscount Conway was granted the right to hold a market in the town. The grant, dated 3rd January 1627 read that Viscount Conway and his heirs and assigns ‘may and can have hold and keep a market on every Tuesday weekly in or at the aforesaid town of Lisnagarvey in the said County of Antrim for ever’. So began a tradition which continues to the present day.

The Market House, believed to have been built in the late 1620s became the focal point and status symbol of the town’s commercial life. The building also proved to be an inspiration for the town’s inhabitants as it survived not only the 1641 Rebellion which devastated much of the area, but also the great fire of 1707, which reduced the town to ashes. The modified Market House is now the oldest building still standing in Lisburn. As the town began to rebuild for the second time, the market helped to bring life back to the streets. In this period it was noted that ‘grain of every description, meal, and potatoes were sold in the Market Square around the market house’.

It was also said that besides food and some household items, there were sellers of “quack” medicines; peculiar shaped roots and liquid in bottles guaranteed to cure anything from housemaid’s knee to baldness!

Lisburn Market day advertisement in the Lisburn Standard, 30 Aug. 1884 (Courtesy of BNA).

The market remained at its Market Square location for over three hundred years until the 1930s, when the Urban Council had it removed to nearby Smithfield.

What are your memories of Lisburn’s market? Please get in touch and let us know.

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