| Bennett Index |

Bennett's and the Potteries

Locations in Bennett's novels

next: the Tiger
previous: Povey's Confectioners Shop
contents: index page for Arnold Bennett

| index of locations in Bennett's novels |

The Shambles meat market

the site of The Shambles referred to in the Old Wives' Tale, is now a public space  "In these barbaric days, Bursley had a majestic edifice ...for the sale of dead animals".


The Shambles c.1880
The Shambles c.1880

to the left is the corner of the Town Hall, in the centre the meat market and on the right, just past the meat market is the Big House (Conservative Club).

Note the state of the roads and the Hansom Cabs in front of the Town Hall.

photo: Warrillow Collection


The Shambles
The Shambles

Postcard of Burslem Town Hall and Meat Market in 1920
decorated for the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Staffordshire Past Tracks

In Bennett's writings:

Covered meat market, located in Market Place behind the Town Hall and south of 'the playground'.


"In those barbaric days Bursley had a majestic edifice, black as basalt, for the sale of dead animals by the limb and rib - it was entitled 'the Shambles' - but vegetables, fruit, cheese, eggs, and pikelets were still sold under canvas."

Bennett: The Old Wives' Tale Chapter 3

"Edwin, like everybody, knew every line of the poem.....

It seemed to him that in the dim cellars under the shambles behind the Town Hall, where he had once been, there dwelt, squatting, a strange and savage god who would blast all those who did not enter his presence dripping with gore, be they child or grandfather. It seemed to him that the drums were tom-toms, and Baines's a bazaar....."

Bennett: Clayhanger Book 2 Chapter 12

It was outside the Town Hall and meat market that Samuel Povey set out by Hansom Cab for Knype (Stoke) Station to attend the trial of his cousin Daniel Povey.  

"On the dark winter morning when Samuel set off to the grand assize, Constance did not ask his views as to what protection he would adopt against the weather..... Then the cab came, and he saw Amy put hot bricks into it. Constance herself put goloshes over his boots, not because it was damp, but because indiarubber keeps the feet warm.

Thus in the winter darkness--for it was not yet dawn--Samuel set forth to the trial, escorted by his son. The reverberation of his appalling cough from the cab was the last thing that Constance heard."

Bennett: The Old Wives' Tale Book 2 Chapter 5

"In the centre of the town, on the waste ground to the north of the "Shambles" (as the stone-built meat market was called), and in the space between the Shambles and the as yet unfinished new Town Hall, the showmen and the showgirls and the showboys were titivating their booths, and cooking their teas, and watering their horses, and polishing the brass rails of their vans,..."

Bennett: Jock-at-a-Venture; The Death of Simon Fuge


Actual location / building:

Covered meat market, located in Market Place next to the Town Hall. Built in 1835-6 and demolished in 1957.

Before the meat market it was the site of Wedgwood's first potworks (the Ivy House Works), and the kiln bases are still there under the pavement.

Burslem's Police Station was situated at the back of the Meat Market. The market was demolished in the late 1950's and was laid out as a flower and lawn garden, with a bandstand in the centre.

It was next to Burslem's second Town Hall. Bothe built of sandstone but were black because of years of smoke from the many potworks and domestic fires that dominated the Potteries until the Clean Air Act of the 1950s.

In 1998 Time Team excavated the site for the Channel 4 television programme.


"An open-air meat and vegetable market was established in the area round the town hall about the time of the building of the hall c. 1761.

In 1816 the vegetable market was moved 'to the open part of the town below where the fountain lately stood' (now St. John's Square) to ease congestion.

In 1825 the market was placed under a body of trustees with authority to make by-laws for its regulation and extension; ...... a covered market-house with 124 places was erected on the site in 18356 for the butchers and provision-merchants. It was demolished in 1957."

From: 'Burslem: Local government, economic history and social life', A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8 (1963), pp. 125-142.

| index of locations in Bennett's novels |


next: the Tiger
previous: Povey's Confectioners Shop
contents: index page for Arnold Bennett