Exclusive retailers move into Chichester's Butter Market

The cathedral city is already a popular destination for sophisticated shoppers, but the new development of the Butter Market is set to increase the town's reputation for prestigious brands and a well-heeled clientele, says Jenny Mark-Bell

The iconic Butter Market opened in 1808. By the early 19th century trade had outgrown the medieval Cross in North Street and smaller markets were being held all over the city. The council decided to unite all the markets in one place, within the city walls.In 1806 a Mr William Humphry offered the site of two large houses in North Street, and the land was sold to the council in May of that year.  The famous architect John Nash (1752 - 1835), who at the time was working for the Burrells at West Grinstead Park, was invited to submit plans, which were then approved by the Common Council. Unusually, construction of the market was not financed by public subscription but by private investors who received annuities for life from tolls collected from traders.  Construction was already well underway by the time an Act of Parliament to build the market was passed in August 1807 and it was finished by December, opening for business on 20 January 1808.  The market was a single storey building with a Roman Doric portico facing onto the street and open at the back for a fish area.  There were 14 shops inside, seven in each side aisle.  At the front, iron gates were erected to be closed at night. An upper storey was added in 1900 to house the Technical Institute and Art School where Eric Gill, among others, studied.

Restoration dramaFast forward 200 years and an ambitious scheme was being hatched to restore the Butter Market to its former glory. Property consultants Cluttons advised on the refurbishment, carried out under a Development Agreement between Chichester City Council and Orion Developments (Southern) Ltd, from the initial concept stage in 2007. Surveyor Ricky Poonia, who worked on the project, says: “The Butter Market is a rare combination of architectural and retail excellence. Chichester plays host to international events like Goodwood, and it's a top quality retail location, amongst the best in the South.”The developers planned two large anchor units on the ground floor, with six smaller shops on the first floor. Retaining period touches such as the York stone paving and adding new ones like the handmade lighting features, Cluttons aims to attract quality boutique tenants for the smaller shops: “We are looking for shirt-makers, milliners, perfumers…traders that will fit perfectly within a character building of this type,” says Ricky Poonia.  The first of the ground floor traders, Patisserie Valerie, opened its doors on Easter Saturday. It is the high-end caterer’s first Sussex branch and CEO Paul May was taken with both the venue and the community. “We are delighted to be opening in Chichester and have received a warm welcome and lots of help and support from the Mayor’s Office, the council and the Town Centre Manager,” he says. “We look for high quality shopping venues in which to open and the Butter Market fits the bill perfectly.”

Becoming a pillar of the communityPressleys, a family jeweller extending from Worthing for the first time in ten years, has taken the two shops at the front of the building. Fourth generation managing director Jonathan Pressley is excited about the move. “The Butter Market was too great an opportunity to miss. To a certain degree we are following the same business model as we have in Worthing, so we have Etcetera, which is very much at the cutting edge of jewellery design, nurturing young and local designers, and Pressleys, which is classic and high end. The two shops are totally separate entities. The Buttermarket development itself is world class and we are proud to be a part of it.”Pressleys’ Worthing shop has been established for over a hundred years and is very much part of the fabric of the town. Jonathan thinks that they will swiftly become part of Chichester’s commercial community.  “I’m going to be very much a part of this venture and this is the area I feel most at home in. I am shortly going to have a child and I’m planning to relocate to Chichester with my family.”Jonathan knew immediately that the development was right for his business: “I went to the Butter Market right as the project was beginning and realised that it had serious potential. The shops have beautiful lighting and will light up the interior of the Butter Market: you can imagine how stunning the effect will be at Christmas.”

Chichester Festivities 2011 There’s all the more reason to visit this picturesque cathedral city this month and next.The famous Chichester Festivities begin on the 24 June for 17 days of world-class music, fireworks, talks, comedy, exhibitions and outdoor events at key venues across the city, including the Cathedral. A Fringe festival will run concurrently, with locals invited to take part and showcase their talents for the visual arts, writing, cabaret, street theatre. More details at www.chifest.org.uk

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