The neo-classical Grainger Market of 1835 characterises the movement throughout nineteenth-century Europe to bring boisterous and sometimes rowdy street markets under a greater degree of control. It was designed by John Dobson (1787-1865), the most eminent architect to have practised in north-east England, and formed part of a comprehensive programme of city centre re-development carried out in the 1830s by a builder, Richard Grainger (1797-1861), which also included Grey Street, the Theatre Royal of 1837 and the Doric column commemorating Charles, second Earl Grey (1764-1845) completed the following year.
In 1835 this was the largest undercover market in Europe. It originally accommodated 243 shops, many of them belonging to butchers. The market follows a rectangular plan, with four main aisles and four cross aisles, and entrances on each protected by ornate iron gates.
Amongst the current shops is the last Marks and Spencers Penny Bazaar. Marks and Spencer originated in a partnership established in Manchester between Michael Marks (1859-1907) who was born at Slonim in Russia, moved to England in 1884, and gained his living by trading at markets, and Tom Spencer, a book keeper with one of his suppliers. From 1894 the focus of the business turned to shops, but some market stalls were retained, and that in Newcastle, managed as a branch of the company’s principal store in the city on Northumberland Street, still remains, and displays its early-twentieth-century gold-on-crimson fascia and the legend ‘Admission Free’.