The Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange as seen from Market Place Street

The Corn Exchange as seen from Market Place Street

The remarkable Grade II* listed building is sited in the centre of Leicester Market.  The market is one of the largest in Europe and reflects the vibrancy of the city. There have been buildings on the site of the Corn Exchange since the mid-15th century, including accommodation for butchers and clothiers.  An earlier building known as the Gainsborough once stood on this site. It was erected in 1509 and was used partly as a gaol and law courts and partly as shops; it also had a dungeon in the cellar.  It was damaged by soldiers during the Civil War in 1645 and a new building, officially called ‘The Exchange’, was built in 1748 to replace it.  Leicester’s Saturday market was claimed to be one of the greatest in England and became a centre of exchange for the surrounding countryside for, corn, cattle and other provisions.  Every Saturday it was filled to overflowing and eventually the old buildings which cramped the market place were pulled down to make way for a new Market House.

Designed by architect William Flint, the ground floor of the present building was built in 1850 as a one-storied market hall and a place for dealing in grain. In 1856 an upper floor was added by Leicester architect, F W Ordish as temporary housing for the magistracy.   To avoid spoiling the new building by adding an internal staircase, Ordish designed a spectacular two flight external stone staircase leading to a central upper doorway.   Although many local people disliked it intensely when it was first erected, the arch double staircase has come to be much admired among architects and is reminiscent of structures to be found in Venice. Our very own Rialto Bridge!  He also added a decorative clock tower which is positioned centrally above the doorway and which stands as a prominent landmark in the market place. The weather vane on the Clock tower is a Wyvern, a mythical bird and the crest of the City’s arms.

Having stood derelict for a number of years, the Corn Exchange is now owned by the British public house chain J D Wetherspoon

Reference

Banner, J.W. 1991 Discovering Leicester, Leicester, Leicester City Council

Simmons, J.  1967 Mid-Victorian Leicester, Leicester:  Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society

Taylor, M. 1997 The Quality Of Leicester , Leicester: Leicester City Council.