Market House and Court House

Market or Courthouse facade
Pat McGovern
Part facade c 1890. Note open arches to market area with gates.
Donor - postcard collection
At the Police Court, Ballinrobe. Magisterial Examination of Rioters on a charge of threatening Captain Boycott. Interior of upper floor of Market House
The Graphic Newspaper, London,Dec. 1880
Sapper's mark
Averil Staunton
Bullet marked pillar on the ground floor with kind permission of Mr. Dermot O'Connor
Averil Staunton
Victorian postbox
Averil Staunton

The current, prominently sited Market House, was rebuilt c 1752, and has a Sapper’s mark on the exterior, and also has a Victorian post box, now over painted in green.  The original post-box would have been painted red and still retains Queen Victoria’s 1819-1901 crest.  The District Courtroom was housed upstairs until recently.  The lower storey would have been open to the elements with windows only being inserted at a later date.

According to Mayo County Councils listed building register no 10, this is a “good example of a large two storey building with five bays and a small pediment with a Diocletian window and clock.  Although the building has been converted into a public house, it has successfully retained much of its character, with such features as the original slated roof complete with lead ridges and louvered topknot.”  The Courthouse was upstairs with the market held at the open loggia on the ground floor.


In 1698, a Commission of Inquiry which, among other things redistributed property from Catholic to Protestant landlords around the area was held in Ballinrobe.  In 1716 the County Assizes (Civil and Criminal Courts) were held in Ballinrobe possibly at Cherry Castle, Abbey St., owned in later years by the Lardner Family and later still by the Staunton families, as the Market House had not yet been built.

British authority was displayed at the Market House both upstairs and downstairs through the ritualised power of law courts, with symbols and practices of the extension of English rule and laws, which would have impacted on Ballinrobe, and what was left of its original community.  Here freeholders as jurors, local notables as sheriffs and local magnates as members of presidential councils learned the practice of English law, as indeed did the rest of the population who were affected by the courts decisions.  These laws impacted on Gaelic Ireland which had operated separately, with political rituals reflective of an indigenous legal system.  Members of the Grand Jury and Judiciary – (the Grand Jury was the body responsible for the administration of the county unit from the time of Charles 1 (1625-49)), described as “the gentlemen of most consequence in the country”; they were mainly leading landowners, and were generally from the Church of Ireland community.  Peers could not serve.  The positions were honorary and 23 members was the upper limit.  They met at the assizes to assist the judges on circuit and their chief function was to strike the tax rate or ‘cess’.  They had the right to demand forced labour for road maintenance.  This lasted till 1898, when under the Local Government Act, 1898; the system of elected County and District members was established.  They would have had significant status within the Ballinrobe community

Significant changes to the Irish bartering system began to appear,  and this was evident with the English system of holding markets.

At ground level the open market catered for local produce particularly perishable goods such as butter, meat, and bread.

Other market locations

Outside on Market Street (now Main St) cloth, flannel, woollen goods, socks, lace, linen, wheat, oats, and barley were sold.

Other markets were on the corner of Abbey Street, and there were also  potato and fish markets, with hay, potatoes, turnips, turf and cabbage being sold right up to the 19th century.   Glebe Street had a poultry market, and the pig market was originally held where the present New St is located, formally called Back Street. Vegetables and cabbage plants and calves were sold on Bridge St.


John Wesley (1703-1791) who was a preacher, with a single-minded determination to build Methodism as a monument to God’s glory, (which helped to destroy his marriage and isolated him in a leadership role, he became in the words of one historian ‘granite in aspic’) and on his many journeys between Galway and Castlebar preached regularly in Ballinrobe.  On one occasion  in 1775 at the assembly room (which would have been the upstairs room in the market house) he describes Ballinrobe:

As a small town at least as attractive as any other county capital with a good hotel, two sessions of the assizes and military barracks: the markets of many towns throughout Ireland benefited from military appetites.”


Apart from Courts the upstairs level was used as a Sunday school for Church of Ireland children at some stage.

No 18 on the Town Heritage Trail.


Staunton, Averil. A Visual History of St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo (Thesis for Masters degree)

A variety of sources including:  Gillespie, R. G. & Moran, G., A (Ed) Various County – Essays on Mayo History 1500-1900 FTN – Mayo News, Westport, Co. Mayo (1987) and personal interviews.

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