The Buttermarket

Market House (Butter Market)

Following last week’s post about the Market Cross and the Butter Market, I was asked on Facebook whether it is known why the Butter Market has the emblem of a cap and a crown on its facade? Two of the city’s leading historians, Alan Green and Andrew Berriman have come back to me with some thoughts.

Firstly, Alan has suggested that we should refer to the building as the Market House rather than Butter Market.

As far as ideas on the ‘cap and crown’, no one knows for sure but here are a number of possibilities:

Eleanor Coade, the female sculptor of the period is believed to have created the montage. Did she have revolutionary sympathies perhaps? Suggesting that the ‘cap of liberty’ would triumph over the crown? This was the era of the wars with Napoleon, but there is no reason to believe that Coade had such sympathies and even less reason to believe that the city authorities would have tolerated such sentiments being adorned on a public building!

At the time the Market House was being built French prisoners of war were being employed building a great flint wall around the Goodwood estate, so is the ‘cap’ a token of thanks to them? Again, doubtful, they were enemy prisoners and not doing it out of love!

John Wilkes, the radical agitator often sported a ‘cap of liberty,’ and he had quite a following locally – The Wilkes Head at Eastergate is still named after him. But his campaigning days were in the 1760s and 70s and he died in 1797, over decade before the Market House was built, so that does not add up either.

Andrew has pointed out that the cap of liberty dates back to Roman times and was awarded to free slaves so they could demonstrate their new won freedom – it is an ancient symbol. Could it, therefore, represent the new freedom given to the market traders? No longer would they have to shelter under the old cross, as wind and rain blew at them from all directions? Now they could take their comfort inside the new building. It is only a thought? Perhaps others have their own ideas? If so, please let us know!

Chris Hare, Chichester Heritage Trails.

 

**ADDENDUM**

Local historian, Alan Green has suggested a further theory for the ‘cap and crown’ emblem on the Market House in North Street:

Eleanor Coade was actually a manufacturer of artificial stone products (rather than a sculptor) and her catalogue includes statues and garden ornaments as well as architectural mouldings. All these were cast in moulds allowing mass production. It is my theory that the base of the Market House insignia was made up using her stock moulds which happened to include one of crossed maces, one of which had the cap of liberty. This had absolutely no significance to the Chichester crest but she obviously thought it made a good composition.

Alan Green