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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 47459 54644


740-1/0/10034 MARKET AVENUE 25-MAR-03 (East side) Pannier Market


Covered market hall. 1959-60 by Walls and Pearn for Plymouth City Council; designed by Paul Pearn with Ken Bingham, job architect. Albin Chronowicz, British Reinforced Concrete Engineering Co. Ltd, engineer. David Weeks, artist. Post-tensioned reinforced shell concrete roof on pre-tensioned reinforced concrete trusses at 32ft centres, incorporating north-facing rooflights. The reinforced concrete expressed externally, with infill panels of precast concrete slabs, originally cast with local aggregate but some now painted, and glass, some renewed with mirror glass.

Large central hall of 148ft clear span and 224ft length which accommodates stalls. Surrounding this are shops with storage space over, Some with frontages to New George Street and Market Avenue, others facing into the market and some running right through. Gallery over single-storey shops to Cornwall Street, with shops and snack bars, reached via two staircases at the north end of the hall. To north east a separate, small fish market hall. Logical plan with broad central entrance on long facade to Market Avenue, with smaller entrances in the side elevations from New George Street and Cornwall Street. The shop elevations originally with simple shopfronts under small fascias with blinds, as survives at 'Samanthas' in Cornwall Street, but otherwise much renewed. The shops on Cornwall Street and first-floor balcony over the corner of Market Avenue and New George Street with small cantilevered shell roofs forming a wave pattern. The other details overclad with Single Regeneration Budget money.

Interior has 144 permanent stalls measuring 8' by 9' and arranged in blocks of six, with a small area of benches to the east used as day stalls. These arrangements have held good since the building opened. Nine fish stalls in separate market. Cantilevered dogleg staircase of concrete with broad timber balustrade leads to gallery snack bars under wavy roofs. Murals by David Weeks in south porch, figures in north porch.

The portal frames were constructed first, with the shells built on shuttering afterwards - a far more flexible and economic system than trying to pour the two elements together. The portal frames took up the weight of the shells, gradually, with negligible transference of resulting stresses into the shell membrane. The design of the roof is thus reduced to its simple elements, and in addition a greater speed of construction was possible with less shell shuttering and scaffolding included. This was the real innovation of the Pannier Market, that marks it out as a development from other north light shell concrete buildings, together with the system of pre- and post-tensioning that could then be adopted. It is an early example of a post-war market built using a shell concrete system. Shell concrete was pioneered in Germany before the war, but was only widely adopted in Britain afterwards, when shortages of steel and timber, and rising costs, made it an ideal solution for bridging large spans without columns. Here the use of conoid shells made it possible to incorporate north-facing rooflights, providing a cool even natural light across the interior that adds to its powerful simplicity.

Included for the quality of its interior and technical ingenuity on a large scale. The Pannier Market was Walls and Pearn's first large building and the only commercial building in the rebuilt city centre with an important interior. It was also important sociologically, for the original market bombed in 1941 had determined to keep going through a series of temporary iron structures through the war, so that its permanent rebuilding was symbolic of Plymouth's survival and regeneration. Its completion as one of the last buildings of the new shopping area was also symbolic of the spiritual completion of central Plymouth.

Sources Architects' Journal, 5 December 1957, p.868 Concrete, March 1959, pp.117-19 Journal of the Plymouth Branch of the Devon and Cornwall Society of Architects, no.22, pp.18-23 Albin Chronowicz, The Design of Shells: A Practical Approach, London, 1959. Jeremy and Caroline Gould, Plymouth Planned - the Architecture of the Plan for Plymouth 1943-1962, August 2000, unpublished for Plymouth City Council.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Chronowicz, A, The Design of Shells A Practical Approach, (1959)
'Journal of the Plymouth Branch of the Devon and Cornwall Society of Architects' in Number 22, ()
'Concrete' in March, (1959), 117-19
'Architects Journal' in 5 December, (1957), 868


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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