A Journey through Reigate Past – The Market Place including the Old Town Hall)


The Bell Street page ended with this image of it at the point where it meets the town centre. Church Street is on the right and Tunnel Road (now closed to traffic) is straight ahead; both will be dealt with in later pages. We will now turn left and look at some images of the town centre, for many years called the Market Place, a name that seems to be fading from memory. The High Street continues beyond the Market Place and will also be dealt with in a separate page. (Note: - As well as being called The Market Place this area is also referred to as the Market Square)


Quite a lot has happened to the building on the corner of Bell Street and The Market Place. Around 1900 it was occupied by Metcalfe's Boot Mart. A number of views of it also appear in the page on Bell Street.


An advert for the Boot Mart


In 1837 a triumphal arch was built across Bell Street for the arrival of Queen Victoria in the town when she broke her journey to Brighton at the White Hart Hotel. The corner building as it was then can be seen. When the frontage was altered a window over the door was kept and is now in a house in Redhill.


The much altered corner building as it was in January 2004. The Alliance and Leicester Building Society has since vacated the site.


The South side of the Market Place (or Market Square as it was also called)

In this picture the corner building is on the far left, the words 'Boot Mart, appear on its front. The rest of the southern part of the Market Place is also shown. Buildings to note are the Swan Hotel centre of picture, Allingham's old shop next to the Old Town Hall, and the Old Town Hall itself with its cupola and clock The highway passes to the left of the Old Town Hall. Also note on the far right a lamp on the front of the Market Hotel, a public house also seen in the first picture on this page. As this picture shows a time long before the introduction of traffic lights to Reigate in the 1930s there is the usual policeman on site to direct the traffic.


This is possibly one of the very last pictures showing a policeman on point duty in the centre of Reigate. It dates from the very early 1930s and in June 1932 tenders were sought for automatic traffic signals at Redhill and Reigate town centres. The saving would be £1,000 per year in manpower for an outlay of £240. By the September traffic signals were being installed in both towns, with Reigate's being worked on a timed basis and Redhill's being operated partly by road pads. In this same month the Ministry of Transport was considering the regulation of direction indicators on cars. In 1934 Reigate traffic lights were converted from timed operation to vehicle activation. In July 1935 studded pedestrian crossings were provided in both towns, Reigate's being at the Tunnel and the Market Square plus the junction of Bell Street and High Street. That October beacons were installed at the crossings. It was remarked of the studs that while they were highly visible and increased safety there were still many Reigate motorists whose brains did not react to them, nor to the signs saying no overtaking in the tunnel, which was then still in use by traffic.


La Trobes shop originally traded on the south side of the Market Place from 1911. The building appears in the above picture as the last building visible between the Swan Hotel and the Market Hall. The shop later moved to the north side of the square and is shown further below.


This picture of the Swan Hotel was taken by a Reigate resident in 1933.

(It appears here courtesy

www.oldreigate.com )


The Swan Hotel in 1937. A notice on the front has the word 'furniture' on it so is possible advertising the sale of items from the hotel which at this time was about to be demolished. On the far left is Martin Dunsford's menswear shop (see below), and next to it H.Oram Chemist. On the far right is C.Allingham's shop with a 'sold' notice on it.


The rear of the Swan Hotel with its part cobbled yard. Throuh the access way that was the entrance for many years for horse drawn vehicles more modern vehicles of the 1930s can be seen.


A colour print of the Swan yard
by James Ogilvy c1914.


Information from Mr Robin Knight re Martin Dunsford Menswear,

My father, George Frederick Knight, was the junior partner of Martin Dunsford and later sole proprietor for many years.  The business prospered through the 50's, 60's and 70's and my father was at one time President of the local chapter of Rotary and President of the Menswear Association of Britain. Martin Dunsford menswear had a significant bespoke workroom with a master tailor and cutter at the helm by the name of Mills. The business would enter garments in the national 'Tailor & Cutter' competition annually and won numerous awards.


In a rather bare Market Square of 1890 Pither's brush and fancy goods shop is third from left. Here it cannot be seen well but the shop appears in 1937 on the far left of the picture directly above as Martin Dunsford's. A better view of Pither's 1890 premises is shown right.


Pithers's shop in 1890, windows full of fancy goods and brushes that according to the sign


above the door were local produce.


A 1937 sketch of the Market Square made just as the Swan Hotel was about to close


An artist's impression of the building that would replace Oram's Chemist, the Swan Hotel and Allingham's stationery and printing business in Reigate Market Square. Many people will remember the Court School of Dancing on the first floor. The Burton company started in 1900 and opened their Reigate branch on February 24th 1939. Oram's shop was in the 1700s occupied by Quaker George Vaux. Allingham's had been established in 1776 and passed through four generations before final closure in 1935. Before 1776 the shop had belonged to Thomas Picstone who had been in the same line of business as Allinghams.


Two similar pictures of the Market Place but the one on the left shows the Swan Hotel whereas in the later one on the right the Swan has been replaced by the Burtons building.


Once again the Swan Hotel appears in the 1930s picture on the left at a time when parking was just beginning to become a problem in the town, whereas Burtons is prominent in the 1940s/50s right hand picture (surprisingly light traffic) and only buses can stop where the cars once parked.
It is wondered what happened to the ornate lamp standard that has clearly been replaced in the right-hand picture.


The North side of the Market Place


These two pictures, both from before 1914, the one on the right an earlier card, give a better view of the High Street passing the Old Town Hall and of the buildings on the north side of the square. The building in the centre has 'Eames Outfitters' written across it; the letters can still be made out today. To the right of it is a bank, and far right of the left hand picture is the Market Hotel referred to above. Notice that the central island in the picture on the left has a more modern lamp than the one on the right. And could that be an illuminated bollard alongside it? Notice also that in both cases the arches of the town hall are covered in. The church in the distance in the right hand picture will be dealt with later on this page.


These pictures of the Market Place were taken on 2nd February 2005. They show that the same buildings are there as were in 1914 and that the words 'Eames Outfitters' can still be seen.


Eames as it used to be


This old picture perhaps should not be here, but when first seen by this author was captioned 'Premises in Bell Street occupied by the father of Thomas Dann, Reigate's first mayor, about 1861.

This building was formerly the Old Crown Inn, closed in 1859'.

As the Crown inn was in the Market Place, not Bell Street, it is included here, but the slope of the pavement fits Bell Street better, and someone looking at this page may know better .


Between the Crown Inn and what was Eames shop a set of steps up to the Castle Grounds took its name from the Inn, becoming known as the Crown Steps. The couple in the photo are identified by Pat Hodnett from Canada as her grandmother, Elizabeth May Fowler, and her older sister Sue, who lived in the cottage at the top of the steps as children


The Marketplace 1923/4




1905 advertisement for Eames Outfitters


The building was later occupied by La Trobes. Originally on the south side of the square (see picture in that section above) the shop had been trading in Reigate since 1911 and had later moved to the north side.


1921 advert when the shop was on the south side of the Square


Miss La Trobe and her brother James succeeded their parents and ran the shop on the north side of the Square until 1980. Many people will remember that their general goods were sold in the front of the shop but the toy department was in a separate building at the rear.

Jeremy from Reigate emailed to say that LaTrobes retained its gas lighting until its demise, which came in useful during the miners strike of the 1970s


(Picture above courtesy Surrey Mirror)


The address on this bill from 1929 shows that the shop was by this time on the north side of the Square

(image courtesy Roger Thorne)


The Market Place c1936. Note the road markings and bollards that were part of the traffic light control system installed in 1934


This picture would seem to be from the 1950s when La Trobes was there (hidden by sun blind) and the High Street was still open for two-way traffic, including buses. Above the bus shelter the 'Eames Outfitters' wording appears to be blacked out, so it would seem that the blacking has been eroded over the years to once again reveal the lettering underneath.


The Market Hotel c1920 with its entrance on the left but otherwise not externally greatly changed. The Market hotel stands at the north-east corner of the square alongside tunnel Road.


Author's Note: - The northeast and southeast corners of the Market Place are situated on the junctions of Tunnel Road and Church Street, and Bell Street and Church Street, so for the puposes of description will be dealt with in the page on Church Street when it appears


The Old Town Hall


What we now call the Old Town Hall was built as a replacement market hall for a similar building that once stood near West Street. In his book 'Reigate through the Ages' Wilfrid Hooper uses various evidence to place its date of erection at 1728 or 29. The above sketch shows the building as it was first built.


Two other buildings once stood in the Market Place. One was the medieval chapel of St Thomas that is said to have fallen out of use as a religious centre by 1547 and thereafter been used as a market hall. The Swan Hotel is shown on the north side of the square but was actually on the south side, in which case that cannot be Church Street in the distance. This may be a picture of a market town in Herefordshire, it which case it serves to show what Reigate may once have looked like, but really has little right to be here.


The other building that occupied the square was the cage, otherwise the town prison. Its predecessor was in a yard behind where La Trobes later was on the north side of the square. Its top appears to be sticking up behind St Thomas Chapel in the previous picture. In the 1700s it doubled as a fire point as a pipe from the castle moat brought water to it and buckets for fire fighting were stored there. Its successor is close by the present Morrisons/Safeway supermarket

(image courtesy Roger Thorne)


When the cage was demolished its cupola and clock was placed on top of the new Market Hall/Old Town Hall. Notice that in this picture the site of the Bank shown in pictures above is occupied by the Crown Inn.


The above picture is of the Old Town Hall and the cage that stood near it before it was demolished at the beginning of the 18thc.It has the cupola and clock mounted on it. These were mounted on the Old Town Hall in 1811 and the corner chimneys were added to the Old Town Hall in 1853. The picture comes from the Surrey Mirror and is of a watercolour by Samuel Howitt.


A new cage was built behind shops on the south side of the High Street. This picture of it probably dates from the early 1900s


The cage still exists close by the High Street entrance to Safeway. The part of the building that is now a wine bar was opened as such in 1994. This picture taken February 2004.


Reigate Market Place c1880s


Returning to the Old Town Hall - the corner chimneys were added when alterations were carried out by Lord Somers in 1853. The building was used for petty court sessions from 1876, magistrates sitting there into the 1880s when there were complaints that it was the only Borough court and that another ought to be set up at Redhill


.This may be a picture by Wilfrid Hooper's sister Miriam, as there are similarities with the picture by her that appears on the front cover of his book 'Reigate Through the Ages', although later evidence is that it was  originally an engraving executed in the early 19th century.

Here the site of bank we know today is occupied by the Crown public house (after which the Crown Steps are named).The Crown ceased trading by 1900.


The Old Town Hall was known as the Market Hall until the new Municipal Buildings were erected in Castlefield Road and opened in 1901.This picture was taken in 1886 and although it cannot be seen here there is a date on the clock of 1879 which has since been changed. The name Larmer is on the shop just behind the wagon on the right so might have been that of a local malster by that name who alsohad premises in the building that later became the Old Wheel. The Swan Hotel is on the left and the building with the church-like roof further along the High Street beyond the Old Town Hall is the Public Hall erected 1861-2 and taken into liquidation in 1924.


A garden to the rear of the Swan Hotel in the days when there was still room for such things in the centre of the town.


This picture shows the newly formed Reigate Amateur Film Society members themselves being filmed (or photographed) in the centre of Reigate Market Place in 1933. The picture is unfortunately poor quality and also suffers from the fact that no more information was available from its caption, the names of the members involved not being given. The film they were making was given, however, and was called 'Come to Reigate'. No doubt the Old Town Hall featured prominently.


This is a detail from a painting of this part of the square. The Swan Hotel is shown, as is Allingham's shop and a part of the Old Town Hall.


Later transport - A route S21 Reigate to Redhill via South Park solid-tyred bus stands in the Market Place in the 1910s-1920s. Not just the top but also the cab was open to the elements.


A private bus operator waits in the Market Square offering Reigate to London return for six shillings. The words 'Redhill and Reigate' above the widscreen make it appear that the bus also plied its trade between the towns in the 1920s and 1930s.


Another East Surrey Traction Company bus in the Market Square c1920s by the Old Town Hall. Work is going on at the shopfront in the background - could this be when La Trobes moved across the Square?


Crowds in the Market Square watch the progress of a marching column of troops through Reigate during WW1


Possibly the same occasion as left, but if so with fewer people on the central island and from a different angle


The Market Place in 1968, with 2-way traffic and still sporting an attractive light standard


A view of the Market Square from Church Street c1952


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