Portaferry Market House
The Market House is the earliest surviving public building in the town. Work began in 1749 and was completed by 1752. Its construction was commissioned and paid for by Andrew Savage, amemberoftheancientfamilyofSavages. DuringtheNorman invasion, when John de Courcy and his knights passed through the area, one of them, le Savage by name, settled in this southern part of the Ards Peninsula.
Originally the Market House had a market every Thursday. Upstairs, meetings of the Portaferry Literary Society and the Portaferry Mechanics’ Institute took place. The building was also used as a Manor Court and, later, a Petty Sessions Court. Tea dances and concerts were popular in this very central location. In the mid 19th century a daily reading room was opened, as was Portaferry’s first bank, the Penny Bank.
Thebuildingwaspartiallyrebuiltfollowingits defence against the United Irishmen on 11th June 1798. The Yeomanry of the town, under the command of Captain George Mathews, had taken the Market House as a garrison. At each end of the building they placed guns which had been sent ashore from the HMS Buckingham, anchored off Portaferry Quay. The United Irishmen, led by James McMullan and armed with pitchforks and pikes, marched on the Square and were met with a volley of fire. Some reports say ten, others say forty men died. Others escaped to the Isle of Man. Twenty seven refugees were captured there – fifteen Presbyterians, eleven Catholics and one Protestant.