Mystery of York cattle market’s twin cupolas

Mystery of York cattle market’s twin cupolas

The cupolas of the York Cattle Market during demolition, 11/6/1976

York Cattle Market, 16/11/67 - deserted on market day because of foot and mouth restrictions

The cattle pens at York Cattle Market in paragon Street on February 9, 1959

Empty pens at the cattle market in November 1967 - thanks to an outbreak of foot and mouth

York Cattle Market - full of sheep, January 21, 1966

York Cattle Market, 16/11/1976 - the cupolas are lifted away for storage in Beckfield Lane

York Cattle Market, February 1961

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The twin cupolas of the York cattle market in Paragon Street were for many years almost as distinctive a part of the York skyline as the Minster or Clifford'sTower.

Then, one day in November 1976, they were removed and put into storage. The aim was to preserve the distinctive landmarks until a new use could be found for them. But what eventually became of them is something of a mystery - one we hope readers of The Press can perhaps help solve.

After almost 150 years at Paragon Street the cattle market had already, by 1976, moved outside York to Murton. The Paragon Street site had been earmarked for development as a sports complex. These plans, however, had been shelved - prompting Peter Addyman of the York Archaeological Trust in 1976 to issue a last-ditch plea for the cupolas to be allowed to stay.

"There is no reason why they should be pulled down now that the sports centre has been shelved," he told The Evening Press at the time. "There is still time for a change of heart, at least until the future of the site is decided."

The council disagreed, however. Cllr Clive Kay, chairman of the city council's development services committee, said the cupolas were not in good condition, and if left would deteriorate further.

"I think it is better to remove them and look after them until we decide what to do with them," he said. "They are a feature which it is right from the city's point of view should be preserved."

The plan was to put them in a council store in Beckfield Lane.

Photographers from the Yorkshire Evening Press were on hand as the cupolas were lifted intact by crane, and Dr June Hargreaves, who at the time was the council's assistant city planning officer with responsibility for conservation, remembers them going into storage. "They were too interesting to be demolished," she says. "I had this idea that at least one of them could be used as the roof for a bandstand."

They remained in storage in Beckfield Lane for some time. "Then somebody said they had been bashed about," Dr Hargreaves says.

She doesn't know what happened to them after that. The store was eventually replaced by a tip, so presumably the cupolas would have been moved. "By the time they were taken away I don't think anybody knew where they had come from," Dr Hargreaves says. "It is a shame, because in the photos they look in pretty good condition."

The cattle market itself had been at Paragon Street since 1827. It replaced a number of smaller cattle and pig markets that had been held throughout the city - including a swine market outside Fishergate Bar, a pig market near Foss Bridge and the 'Fortnight Fairs' held in Walmgate.

Because it was inconvenient having so many markets, in 1826 the York Corporation bought six acres of land outside the city walls near Fishergate Bar, according to the website British History Online. "The walled-up bar was opened, the dyke alongside the walls was covered over, pens were constructed, and the market was opened late in 1827," the website says.

There were various improvements to the market over the next 100 years, including the building of a railway siding and branch line in 1879. It is not clear exactly when the cupolas were built, but it may have been in 1904. "Considerable improvements, including the addition of two auction rings, were made in 1904," British History Online reports.

By the 1920s, however, the market was thriving. We know that thanks to an extraordinary book found in a charity shop.

It was more of a ring-binder than a book. Battered and worn at the edges, it was entitled "A Geographical Study of York', and it was a student thesis - complete with a carefully-typed manuscript plus old postcards and photographs - written in 1927 by a young woman, Rosalie M Pratt, studying to be a teacher.

The binder was given to Press reader Anne Blincoe, a keen collector of old photographs and postcards, by a woman who used to work in a charity shop - and in 2010 she showed it to The Press.

It contained a fascinating entry on the cattle market.

The market covered seven acres, Rosalie noted, "in addition to which there is a pennage for cattle and sheep at the foot of the city wall from Fishergate to well within reach of the cattle docks in Foss Islands Road.

"Stock markets are now held weekly and at certain periods of the year 2,000 cattle will be housed on a Thursday, in addition to 4,000 or 5,000 sheep. Dealers and purchasers assemble from all parts of the kingdom, and the amount of business done is said to be astonishing. It is claimed that thousands of pounds change hands week by week at York market, and cattle and sheep are distributed to all parts of the country. The railway cattle docks at Foss Islands are among the best equipped in the country."

Now all that is left of the market are the photographs. We hope those reproduced on these pages today - some courtesy of June Hargreaves - bring back some interesting memories.

• Do you know what happened to the two cupolas from York cattle market? if so, contact Stephen Lewis on 01904 567263, email stephen.lewis@thepress.co.uk

Comments (1)

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11:27pm Sat 23 Aug 14

baldiebiker says...

As the cupolas look to be mainly made from iron and clad with lead, I would say they were "recycled" maybe a bit at a time?
As the cupolas look to be mainly made from iron and clad with lead, I would say they were "recycled" maybe a bit at a time? baldiebiker
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