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Alexander J. Heaney

1876 - 1936

Central Hall, Old Market Street, Bristol by Alexander J. Heaney

Central Hall, Old Market Street, Bristol   c.1925

  Original ink drawing.
Signed in ink.
S 478 x 369 mm; I 402 x 285 mm
Original ink drawing by Alexander J. Heaney.

Built in 1923-24 and opened in April 1924, Central Hall served for many years as a Methodist Mission Hall. A speech given at the opening of the Hall by Sir William Howell Davies reveals the purpose of the new building. It was to act as ‘an open door to provide a free and unconventional service to the masses of people who aimlessly wander the streets'. He also voiced concern at the amount of alcohol drunk in Bristol and the fact that the country’s annual drink bill was sufiicient to pay off the interest on the national debt.

Old Market Street is an ancient market place which developed immediately outside the walls of Bristol Castle on what was for many centuries the main road to London (now the A420); on market days Jacob Street and Redcross Street, which run parallel to Old Market Street, took the through traffic. Old Market’s Pie Poudre Court, which dealt out summary justice to market-day offenders, was not formally abolished until 1971. The area contains some of Bristol’s most ancient buildings, including the last two remaining houses jettied over the pavement and over sixty listed buildings. Old Market suffered decades of neglect and severe decline in the mid-20th century due to the removal of Bristol’s historic central shopping area from Castle Street to Broadmead and the construction of Temple Way Underpass and Easton Way, which severed it from Bristol’s pre-war shopping axis in both directions. Some important buildings still suffer from neglect, but the actions of local conservationists together with grant-aided schemes in the wake of its declaration as a Conservation Area in 1979 have done much to arrest the decline. Old Market has in recent years become a centre of Bristol’s gay scene, and has been proclaimed as ‘Bristol’s Gay Village’.

As the area became depopulated after the War, Central Hall became too vast to heat and maintain and so was sold. There were plans for the building to remain as a circus school but in the end only the street front was preserved and flats were built behind the façade.

On off-white artist’s drawing board supplied by Goodall’s of Bristol; with full margins. Generally very good original condition.

Provenance: From the collection of Phyllis Heaney, the artist’s daughter – thence by descent to her granddaughter.