Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 18, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 18, 2017




Work on constructing a fish market on Plymouth's Barbican started in 1892.  It was an immense undertaking, involving dredging a portion of Sutton Harbour, removing rocks from beneath the water line as well as building the market facilities themselves.

The Plymouth Fish Market on the Barbican

Messrs Pethick Brothers, of Plymouth, were the contractors and the work was separated into three contracts, the total cost being about 40,000.  The original engineer for the project was Mr (later Sir) James Inglis but he had left by May 1895 to take up an appointment with the Great Western Railway.  He was succeeded by a Mr Masterton, of Plymouth.

Formerly the bed of the Harbour was only three feet above low water level, which greatly restricted use to certain states of the tide.  Once it had been dredged and the rocks excavated, the bed was six feet below low water level.

A new, 900 feet long quay had to be formed and the main roadway was widened by some 20 feet to provide extra space for the landing of fish.  A line of cobble-stones set at right-angles to the rest still marks the boundary between the old quay owned by Plymouth Corporation and the new one built by the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company.  The fish market itself was 230 feet long by 60 feet wide, of which some 160 feet was covered.

When the Bill for this work was being considered in Parliament, Plymouth Corporation managed to get a clause inserted that required the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company to construct a new sewer beneath the Market.  Built on a concrete foundation, the sewer was 856 feet long and included two brick tanks, each ten feet long by 11 feet 6 inches tall.  The tanks were faced with Cattybrook wirecut brindle bricks, from Almondsbury, Gloucestershire, and then an outer coating of ordinary Millbrook (South Down) bricks, from Cornwall.

While the new market was being built the fish market was held on the Parade.  This proved to be extremely unpopular as the fish slime soaked into the earth between the cobblestones and produced a terrible smell.  It also sank into the storm water chamber under the Parade and the build-up of sewer gas often caused the manhole covers to be blown off.  The  lamp-post in the centre of the Parade is in fact a ventilator erected to deal with this nuisance.

The Fish Market on the Barbican was opened on Saturday February 1st 1896.

A corrugated iron extension was added at the southern end at some point.

When the current Fish Market on the eastern side of Sutton Harbour was opened in the 1990s, the old one was taken over by Dartington Glass and converted in to a glass-blowing workshop and retail unit.