The Buttermarket of Barnard Castle

Along with Middleton-In-Teesdale, Barnard Castle is one of the two principal towns in beautiful Teesdale.  Whilst being a local shopping centre; it also is home to one of the most fantastic ruined castle Barnard Castle  and the even more magnificent Bowes Museum with its magical silver swan.

The old Market Cross Butter Market at Barnard Castle

The old Market Cross Butter Market at Barnard Castle

More modest in scope though none the less beautiful fo it is the famous octagonal Market Cross which was gifted to the town in 1747 by Thomas Breaks which replaced an old tollbooth further up the Market Place.

Commemorating the past

Commemorating the past

These days you have to pick your moments to get up close and personal with the Butter Mart as is is in effect a large roundabout and the meeting point for several busy roads.  Though the impressive columns are now open, in the old days there were also railings and shutters that went around the perimeter and back then the veranda was a market for butter and and other dairy products.   The inner structure also served as the town jail whilst upstairs was an administrative office for the town.

Inside the Butter Market

Inside the Butter Market

Charles Dickens stayed a few doors up the road  whilst researching his novel  Nicholas Nickleby; it is to be hoped that he fared better than John Wesley who was blasted by the town fire-engine hose when he came to preach.

Charles Dickens woz 'ere

More than one place in Barnard Castle were sources of Dickensian inspiration.

In the 18th century the lord of the manor gave the town a fire-engine which was used to deluge John Wesley while on a preaching visit to the town.  There is still a working fireball attached inside the structure.

Barnard Castle Butter Market at dusk.

Barnard Castle Butter Market at dusk.

One of the most interesting and yet tiniest bits of history of the old Buttermarket is in the weather vane which sits atop, moving with the wind.

During the Napoleonic wars an invasion by Napoleon was feared at the coast so the Teesdale Legion of Volunteers was garrisoned in the town.

Sometime during 1803 an argument between a volunteer soldier from Barnard Castle called Taylor, and a gamekeeper called Cruddas who worked for the earl of Strathmore at Streatlam Castle) broke out over who was the better shot.

The men took their guns and made a bet to find out who was the better and the innocent weather vane on top of the market cross was chosen as the target.

Standing around 100 yards away outside the Turks Head Inn both men took turns to fire off a shot.  You can see from the photo below that they were both excellent shots!

Barnard Castle weathervane showing 2 holes as a result of a shooting competition

Lucky for Napoleon he didn’t get to invade!

 

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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