The Butter and Egg Market was erected in 1874 in Market Street, at the foot of High Street. I shall have to make a return visit to my friend, Ben Hughes who still resides in the locality, to revive my memories of those few details of it that he shared last time with me.
Newry was always a market town and indeed was at the height of its commercial strength when the market was opened. The canal still carried much traffic though now it was chiefly of agricultural products from the hinterland coming into town or on to Newry port and beyond. There were a number of resident representatives of foreign governments and commercial interests who utilised the busy port.
Much manufacture was still on a small and local scale. This was especially so of farm products. Farms were still mixed and family-run (the Land Acts were soon to convert them to family-owned too!) and farmers brought their products to town for sale. They set up stalls within the building for this purpose and displayed their wares openly.
Too openly! Ben, who remembers it in operation, always baulked at the unhygienic but common practice of potential buyers scraping the top of the displayed butter slab with a penny and depositing the dab into their mouths to taste the quality! Then on to the next, with the same penny!!
Each butter-producer/farmer had his own identification seal (carved on the base of a wooden hand-held stamp) and this was his mark of quality, a standard he was compelled to maintain.
Ben can still remember the names, and the locations of the homes of the then officials who administered the Butter Market towards the end of the Second World War.
It was the food shortages of that time and the food rationing that followed (this persisted into the early Fifties) that dealt a death blow to Newry’s Butter and Egg Market. The deserted building was demolished in 1948. It was located in the vicinity of the junction now of High Street with Abbey Way.