LAST week, historian Mark Muller showed how early markets helped shape our towns. Here, he looks at their changing importance, and how markets have fit into the evolving local landscape over the last 200 years.

In 1837, the Old Guildhall was removed, the Shire Hall and New Bridge were built and an effort was being made to improve and clean up the town.

Additionally, the decision was taken to build a new hall as a proper functioning place where markets could be held in all weathers at the top of Shoemaker’s Street, to be called, The Market Hall, with the street henceforth to be named, Market Street.

Although it cost an enormous amount for the time, namely £5,000, it was immensely successful and became the hub of the town.

With the arrival of the railway in December 1853, 2,000 ‘poor’ people were treated to a free breakfast in the Market Hall which turned, perhaps unsurprisingly, into a drunken free for all with extra police drafted in from all over the county having to draw their cutlasses in an attempt to re-establish order (although they were described as being the most drunk).

By the twentieth century the Market Hall was where consistent programmes of entertainment were presented.

Besides dances and boxing matches, there were auctions and the hall was also used for the count during elections with the greatest names in politics making speeches here to huge audiences.

One hundred years after its construction extensive repairs and modernisations were needed and frequent market stall holders were given their own lock-up stalls and then came the war.

In November 1947 the German POWs still held in the Portfield Camp decided to put on a children’s party in the Market Hall in an attempt to show their thanks to the people of Haverfordwest for the treatment received as prisoners.

Their mistake was in trying to cover their expenses by making the sixpence entry fee a voluntary contribution and none were forthcoming.

The party was nonetheless a least for the children, and it was appreciated by the townsfolk.

In the subsequent decades, markets became less and less of an essential part of the town and the community living within it, and as TVs became part of the furnishing of every household, so attendance at events like theatrical performances, dance halls, concerts and boxing matches fell away.

As this happened, so the costs of maintaining the building proved more and more difficult to justify. Various new uses for the hall were invented and it was given a variety of new names.

A revolutionary idea by Preseli District Council led to the building being sold to private developers and a new, all week market building, being constructed over the river behind Bridge Street.

The new build was undertaken in 1982 and was completed in one year.

The old hall in Market Street was demolished in the 1990s and new residences built on the site with the name of Shoemakers Court.

As with any major alteration to such an old and once beautiful town, the move was unpopular and the Riverside Market has had mixed fortunes.

But now once again, there is to be major change. This time another revered facility is to be involved...the County Library.

Just as the market had functioned at the top end of the town for centuries, so the County Library had successfully been so positioned from the early twentieth century; initially close to St Thomas’ Green (attached to the old County Offices) before being moved, in the 1960s to Dew Street, to the former site of the Haverfordwest Grammar School.

Planned alterations to the Dew Street library were found to have had several flaws and the renovation was cancelled.

After a lengthy examination of suitable replacement venues, a decision has been taken by Pembrokeshire County Council to relocate the County Library to the Riverside Market building. (Market traders are being offered alternative accommodation.)

Once again there is debate as to whether this new proposal will be a success. In the meantime, there is the immensely successful Farmer’s Market on the other side of the river which seems to provide all of the flavour, excitement and interest as the markets of old.