Market House

Aside from Carrickfergus Castle and St. Nicholas Church, the town’s older buildings have largely been destroyed or replaced throughout the years. Notable examples are the Franciscan Friary and Woodburn Abbey.

Dobbins Inn Hotel, which was home to the Dobbin (formerly “D’Aubin” and then “Dobyn”) family for many years, was often touted as the “oldest building in Carrickfergus”, or “oldest house in Carrickfergus”. However Dobbins, which has been renovated and built-upon a multitude of times over the years, contains very little of the 16th century tower house that once stood there. The establishment, which has been a hotel and pub/restaurant since the 1940s, now actually spans two separate buildings rather than one – the western half shares a building with Bells, another old Carrick business.

The real title of Carrickfergus’ oldest building goes to Market House, at the junction of Market Place and North Street. It is one of the oldest surviving market houses in Northern Ireland, dating back to 1755. As the name suggests, the building was originally a market hall or “weigh house”. Provisions and most likely livestock will have been bought and traded here, and goods would have have been weighed and sorted.

The two-storey building was built on a slight bend where High Street (originally known as Victoria Place) meets Market Place, and so has a symmetrical, angled facade. It was constructed with three large archways at ground level, decorated with semi-circular heads. The upper floor has six rectangular windows, three on each side of the facade. Above the middle two windows is a pediment featuring a clock.

The market hall was in use from its construction until 1843, when it was repurposed and became Carrickfergus Town Hall. It was also around this time (probably in 1839) that the frontage of the building was modified, replacing the central archway with two large windows. The arms of the Corporation (corporate County of the Town of Carrickfergus) was originally above the middle archway, but was never reinstated after the modification. An opening or archway which exited the side of the building onto North Street was also permanently closed up around this time.

Its tenure as Town Hall came to an end in 1935-1936 when the Carrickfergus Gaol and Courthouse – which was itself built not too long after the Market House in 1779 – was repurposed and became the new Town Hall. This building is still Carrickfergus Town Hall today, and also contains the offices of Carrickfergus Borough Council.

Market House Carrickfergus
This old postcard depicts the building when it was the Town Hall. North Street is between the Town Hall and the printing office, and High Street is off to the right. The ‘Big Lamp’ was removed in the 1950s and replaced in a slightly different position with a replica in around 1990. [Image from Old Carrickfergus Postcards]

It is unclear what the building was used for in the following 25-30 years, but it likely remained in council hands for most, if not all of this time, possibly in use as offices, archiving or storage.

In the 1960s (pre-1967) the building was purchased or leased by Ulster Bank Ltd., a subsidiary of Natwest (and now a subsidiary of RBS). It remained in use as a bank until the late 1980s or early 1990s, and many know the building as the “old Ulster Bank”.

It took on several more forms after Ulster Bank moved premises just down the road to High Street, where it remains today: In the 1990s it was “The Gallery”, an art gallery and framing shop, before becoming jewellery shop “Amor” in the early 2000s. From about 2012 until today it has been home to jewellery and art-framing shop “Lauren James”.

Market House in 2011
The Market House in 2011. [Image © Kenneth Allen, via Geograph]