The Portarlington Market House is believed to have been built around 1740-1750, to serve as a Market House and Town Hall. The Market House was the centre of the town’s life through the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first floor consisted of three rooms, reached by a stair in the NE corner. The local courts were held there as well as being available as a hall. Regular markets were held in the open square and local courts were held upstairs. The town was re-surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1889, showing how the square had remaining relatively unchanged, except for the lass of some buildings along the south-west corner. Many of the lands behind the square’s buildings were being used as timber yards, workshops and stores. The presence of weighing scales in the square attests to its use as a market place.
Like many similar small-town market/courthouses, the Portarlington Market House lost its relevance with consolidation of court functions elsewhere and changes to the way livestock and other farm produce were traded and brought to market. By the middle of the 20th century, the typical market house had lost its relevance and importance in most locations in Ireland.
Around 1990, the structure was converted into a motor repair shop on the ground floor, with living accommodation above, created from the former court rooms. It has remained the same over the last three decades. The masonry walls remained relatively intact, along with the timber framed hipped roof with central valley. A few panelled timber doors have survived in the ground and first floors, but no other significant early joinery has remained in place. Virtually none of the structure’s original internal or external finishes or features have survived in place after that conversion.
The project will see the refurbishment and repurposing of the Market House building to create meeting rooms, offices and useful spaces for the public that will interact positively with the surrounding public space and be the stimulus for the regeneration of the Square enhancing its contribution to the town of Portarlington.
The development of the Market House is one of the principle projects within the Portarlington Regeneration Strategy The Portarlington Regeneration Strategy 2030 is a heritage-led regeneration strategy which recognises the Market House as the heritage asset of Portarlington’s historical centre catalysing the enhancement of its wider area. This is to be achieved by stimulating physical, environmental, economic, and community-related aspects of the town centre.
The main objective of the project is “to create a more viable and visually attractive Town Centre in Portarlington for residents, visitors and workers through the appropriate rehabilitation of the Market House and other buildings and improvements to connectivity, public realm and amenities”. Underpinning this objective is the desire to ultimately regenerate the town centre by tackling critical issues such as poor pedestrian environment, dereliction and dysfunctional public spaces. This overall vision also includes increasing the attractiveness of the area to encourage investment.