Webpage created: July 18, 2017
Webpage updated: June 30, 2018
First Corn Chamber or Corn Exchange
There had previously been a Corn Chamber in the Market, in the area where the fish market was held in 1894. At the opening ceremony for the new Corn Exchange it was recalled by Mr Harvey Daw that 'in 1803 or 1807 the corn merchants of the district and the farmers met together in a shed, where it was so cold that they were obliged to start a private subscription to partition and floor the place for the sake of their poor feet'. The farmers often sold their corn direct to the householders, who then took their bags of wheat to one of the Corporation-owned mills to be ground before taking it home to bake into bread.
Second Corn Chamber or Corn Exchange
In September 1840, when the new Fish Market was opened, it was reported that on part of the former Fish Market a new Corn Exchange was in the course of completion. This was on the first floor and consisted of a lofty room, 77 feet long by 20½ feet wide, lit by seven windows on the east side, two in each of the north and south ends, with skylights in the roof. The room was approached by two flights of granite steps, one at each end of the room, and was supported on an arcade of wrought limestone. A clock was to be fixed in the pediment of the building.
But that Corn Chamber had become totally inadequate for the Thursday market and plans were made to replace it with a more modern building in the south-eastern corner of the Plymouth Market.
The old Corn Chamber was used for the last time on Thursday March 22nd 1894.
New Corn Exchange
This new Corn Exchange was designed by Messrs King & Lister, of 20 Princess Square, Plymouth, and the contractor was Mr Samuel Roberts, of Mount Plym, Plymouth. His clerk of works was Mr S Stanbury.
Mr Roberts promised to complete the Corn Exchange block by September 1st 1893 and in the July the architect was reported to have been 'well satisfied with the works'.
The Corn Exchange was opened by the Mayor of Plymouth, Mr William Law, on Thursday March 29th 1894. Mr King, the architect, presented the Mayor with an inscribed silver key and at 3pm he declared the Exchange open for business.
After the opening ceremony the gathering of some 250 sat down to a luncheon provided by Mr H Matthews. It is worth recording that it was a cold lunch and they had to each pay for it themselves, 2s 6d per head.
Apparently, the key is now in the possession of the South Devon and East Cornwall branch of the National Association of Corn and Agricultural Merchants and hangs on the Presidential Chain.
When the luncheon was finished the normal trade of the Corn Exchange began.
Pillars of Devonshire marble adorned the entrance to the building, upon the first floor of which was the Corn Exchange, approached by two wide and lofty staircases from East Street and Market Place. Each entrance had lavatory accommodation, a telephone room and an inquiry clerk's office. Ante-rooms and committee rooms were still to be erected at the principle entrance in Market Place.
The lofty corn chamber on the first floor covered an area of approximately 4,000 square feet. The height of the hall was 28 feet and in addition to the normal windows there were five lantern lights in the roof. There were 27 teak stands arranged around the walls of the chamber for the use of the corn merchants, each with seats, lockers, show boards, drawers, writing desks, and large tables fitted with receptacles to hold samples. The stands were divided from each other by moveable screens and it was possible to remove all the stands so that the hall could be used for other non-market purposes.
It should be mentioned that the building was constructed of limestone and Bath stone with doors of mahogany. The two staircases were formed of huge slabs of granite.
Various rules were laid down in the form of Byelaws. No nails or screws were to be put in the walls; smoking was prohibited; it was to open on Thursdays at 2pm and a bell was to be sounded at 5pm to denote the end of business for the day; and a day ticket for farmers offering samples of corn was to cost one shilling.
The opening times were soon altered to 1pm until 4pm and included a market on Tuesdays as well as Thursdays. The charge was raised to two shillings.
Once a month the Corn Exchange was washed out at a cost of ten shillings a time.
As from September 1st 1923 the Corn Exchange could be hired for £4 5s 0d for a Ball or £3 10s 0d for a Concert, according to the "Table of Rates to be Charged for the Use of the Corn Exchange and Rooms Adjoining".
In September 1948 Messrs Parker and Smith of Plymouth supplied a piano for the Exchange at a cost of £30 per annum.
The Women's Voluntary Service wanted to use the kitchens on two mornings a week during 1950 for the preserving and canning of fruit but the Council refused them permission.
On Saturday August 30th 1952 the City's Estates and Development Valuer, Mr W K Shepherd, announced that the Corn Exchange would not be demolished for another two or three years although anew road was soon to split the Meat Market in two. The exact date of demolition would depend on the availability of building licences for the shops that will replace the Meat Market. The Corn Exchange was the only public hall owned by the Corporation except for the Lecture Hall in the Guildhall.