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Castle Market

Sheffield, United Kingdom
1 of 2

Castle Market was built in stages between 1959 and 1965, and was designed by J. L. Womersley and Andrew Darbyshire, who also designed Park Hill flats. It was named after Sheffield Castle, which was almost entirely demolished in 1648 but the remains of the 13th century foundations were still visible beneath the market, and could be visited.An early example of pedestrian planning in the UK, Castle Market was an intricate, multi-level complex that made maximum use of a compact site. Like Park Hill and Gleadless Valley, Castle Market was a thoughtful and rewarding design which made great use of Sheffield's famous hills and valleys. Womersley and Darbyshire recognised what made Sheffield an interesting place to build was its slopes and dips, and created a complex with soaring heights (the walkways and Rooftop Cafes) and three labyrinthine floors of markets below, all with access to the street on different levels of Castle Hill.

Inside, Castle Market was closer to a modernist re-imagining of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar than the blandly interchangeable malls of today. It was a treasury of mid-century modern mosaics, signage and tile designs, geometric and multi-coloured in seemingly endless variety. Layer upon layer of design eras cried out from every stall, competing for the shopper's attention. Although postmodern signage was added to the walkways in the 1980s, most of Castle Market retained its original 1960s signage, including many classic "formica cafes" - one was used as a location in Shane Meadows' "This is England '88". The ascent to the Roof Top Cafe, with its sci-fi suspended ceiling and net curtains, offered stunning views of the city.

Castle Market was a place where working class people bought groceries, met friends, drank tea and a gossipped. It was a warm, dry space one could spend time in and enjoy the banter and bustle. Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker had his first job there as a teenager, on John Firth's fish stall. But not everyone appreciated Castle Market. Redevelopment had been planned as early as 1996 by Sheffield City Council, who wanted to expose the remains of the castle walls in a visitors' centre. And of course, the surrounding area would be purged in the name of "regeneration".

This act of social cleansing did not go unopposed. An anonymous request for listed status for Castle Park was made in 2011. Sheffield's Liberal Democrat City Council responded by trying to start a letter writing campaign in favour of demolition. English Heritage rejected the application. A spokesperson said: "In order to be considered for listing, 20th Century market halls should display a high degree of architectural, technological and historic interest. Those post-war market halls which have already been listed (such as Coventry) have particularly high levels of architectural innovation and artistic achievement which justify the designation of such late buildings.This is not shared by Castle Market in Sheffield."

Anyone familiar with both Coventry Market (a fine market in its own right) and Castle Market would agree that this comparison was patently false. Trading ceased in November 2013 and Castle Market was demolished in 2015. The markets were relocated to The Moor, at the other end of the town centre. The new market is utterly forgettable, the kind of development that could have been built for any town in the UK. I doubt the like of Castle Market will ever be built again.

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scavluxx, March 22nd, 2019
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