Case Study

Winning over the opposition

Bolton Market Hall

Bolton / 2009


Our challenge in Bolton was how to update the large Victorian open-plan Market Hall; a revitalisation that was needed to drive Bolton’s future as a regional shopping centre.

The Grade II listed building is an example of a purpose built retail environment from the early 19th century, replacing the medieval market place when the Town Hall was built on the site. Architecturally its character is defined by the light and airy quality of the spaces and its wide structural span.  We were determined to find a workable compromise for accommodating modern retail units, blank boxes with 7 metres of facade, while maintaining the special quality of the Victorian interior.

As is often the case, our job here was also about engaging with members of the local community, many of whom were against the scheme, and key stakeholder groups, listening carefully to their concerns and responding to them.






Designed by GT Robinson in 1855, Bolton Market Hall was then the largest covered market in the country. It was redeveloped at the end of the 19th century and again in the 1930s. In the 1980s Chapman Taylor designed a large shopping mall (Market Place) to the north and inserted new kiosk shops within the Hall.

When Warner Estate purchased Market Place, the Market Hall was having a negative impact on it and the surrounding streets; it was an underperforming asset for the Council (the freeholder). Sensitive adaptation, including retail units for high street retailers (which the buildings in the rest of the town centre were not able to accommodate) and revitalising the facades, was needed to provide a viable future.

It was Chapman Taylor, acting as client advisor to the developer, who got us involved in the limited competition in 2003, which we won. The motivation for the project was both economic and regenerative. The brief was for an intensification of the existing retail and for the addition of a new building on the adjacent site of a former fish market.


Bolton Market Hall in 1833 photographed by James Frith





How we worked

Throughout the project we were involved in briefings, discussions and debate with council members and conservation officers, in tandem with the developer, our client. This gave the council a proper appreciation of what the challenges were and the knowledge and context to be able to oppose the populist view not to do anything. The existing tenants were concerned about their future and gathered a petition of around 70,000 signatures to oppose the scheme.

We also had to persuade English Heritage and the conservation officer that our proposal was both right for the immediate and medium-term future of the market hall and central Bolton, but that it could be reversible in the longer-term if necessary.

We took the scheme to planning, and then to Stage E as packages of trade information. It was procured using design and build and we were retained by the client. Chapman Taylor worked for the contractor; we monitored the work of both Chapman Taylor and the subcontractors throughout construction.

Working with the client’s agents we created the Tenant Design Guide and obtained listed building consent for all the tenants’ shop fronts.



Making it happen

Our scheme is a direct response to the nature of 21st century retail. The existing service infrastructure has been upgraded and a significant amount of new retail space provided at ground and first floor, with two new anchor stores. Careful collaboration with the services engineers, WSP, has led to it having a lower energy use than a typical new shopping mall.

Our design makes the most of the cast iron roof structure and the top light that pours in. New shop fronts have been added, in a simple rhythm of piers and balustrades, set back behind cast iron columns. New servicing routes have been created, using the existing basement and the adjacent delivery bays of the centre. Minimal interventions were made to the exterior to highlight and improve the points of entry and the whole external envelope was fully restored, including the numerous small shop fronts.

The project provides Bolton town centre with the retail anchor it so desperately needed, makes a positive contribution to the surrounding streets and secures the future of one of Bolton’s most important buildings. Working as part of a large team we benefitted from the expertise of many other professionals who had experience in the retail sector; knowledge which we then went on to use in the project for the Portsmouth Northern Quarter. 




‘We are delighted to have attracted such a high calibre of retailers to Bolton through the restoration of the Market Hall. The new space will provide another major attraction to the town, allowing us to operate on two levels; maximising the space available and offering more shops to the people of Bolton. At the same time, people will still be able to see and enjoy the stunning architecture of the old Market Hall, combining traditional with modern, side-by-side.’

Councillor John Byrne, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Development

‘This is a fine example of a Victorian Market Hall that has now been given a new lease of life through the stunning restoration project.  This is one of many regeneration initiatives ongoing across Bolton as part of a long-term plan that will attract more than £1 billion in new investment and create almost 20,000 jobs in key growth sectors.’

Councillor Cliff Morris, Leader of Bolton Council




Warner Estate Holdings Plc









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