AS massive construction work continues on Bolton's Market Place here at Looking Back we are looking for readers' memories of the old Bolton Market Hall.

Today this history-laden building provides an undercover contemporary shopping mall, filled with shops, stores and eating places, and is currently being extended to include a cinema.

So what would our ancestors make of the new building? How very different is it today compared with the original design by architect G T Robinson?

When the Market Hall closed to make way for the Market Place the rows of traditional stalls disappeared and with it went a piece of history that Bolton had been renowned for since the Market Hall opened on December 19, 1855.

The building was 294 feet in length and covered an area of 7000 square yards. It was said, at the time, to be the largest covered market in this country and it cost £50,000 to build.

It was built at a time when the town's population rocketed to 60,000 and the traditional street market was blocking the traffic.

A long procession was held to mark the opening ceremony of this prestigious building.

To help boost custom at the market — which was mainly selling produce — a fish market was built next to it. This opened in 1865 at a cost of £30,000 but this was then demolished in September 1932.

Many stall holders had a long association with Bolton Market Hall. At the turn of the century Thomas Coupe set up his stall selling books and music.

For a long time it was the only place in Bolton where theatre and concert enthusiasts could buy their tickets.

Mr Coupe later opened a music shop in Knowsley Street.

He would book a singer and pianist to give local shoppers a little light music as they perused the stall and those nearby.

There have been a number of renovations and modifications during the life of Bolton Market Hall.

Perhaps the most dramatic change came in 1938 when stalls with roofs replaced the long rows of stalls.

The Market Hall would remain in pretty much the same style until 1982 which is when plans were underway to redevelop an area to the north of the Market Hall into a shopping centre.

Although the building does retain much of its Victorian charm (particularly internally) the stalls have long gone.

Coach parties would travel from all over the North West to visit the Market Hall — so popular did visitors find its plethora of stalls from food and drink to clothes and haberdashery.

Marks and Spencer opened a stall in the Market Hall in 1892 and this was called Marks and Spencer Ltd Bazaar selling a wide range of small items.

We know that there has been talk of the Market Hall having animals in cages but were these for sale or kept merely as an attraction?

One of our regular readers thought they were in the basement of the building — which is currently being excavated as part of the new development — while others have told us that these animals may well have been on the balcony.

At one time the vaults were used as a large beer and spirits bottling plant.

It was run by George Munro and Company — a firm set up in 1747 which had outlets in Farnworth, Wigan and Blackburn.

Their drink was widely sought after at a time when Scotch cost four shillings a bottle and £3 would buy you a dozen bottles of good brandy.

As can be seen from our photograph taken in 1955 The North West Electricity Board took over part of what had become an ice making plant under the Market Hall and used it as a garage.

As you can see from our earlier images the Market Hall was filled with stalls rather than what could be classed as individual shops with canopies or roofs.

The floor was stone and the stalls were laid out either side of the many pillars.

There were stalls selling garden plants, biscuits and fruit. Others sold meat or confectionary.

This would be the most popular place to shop in Bolton — a sort of supermarket of its day back at the turn of the century. A place where the discerning shopper could buy almost anything and everything and it was accessible to every family of every class.

Over time the items sold on the stalls would change and household items would start to fill the Market Hall, including pots and pans, tableware and ironmongery.

You could get your knives sharpened here or a key cut. If you did not know where to go for a particular item then chances were it would be sold in this huge hall.

Do you know anything about the animals in the Market Hall or do you have any other memories of the building?

Get in touch with Gayle McBain on 01204 537269 or email and share those memories.