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Eighteen months ago we highlighted the Grade II-Listed courthouse in the West Yorkshire town of Pontefract.

Wakefield Council had just approved planning to create a community venue, antiques centre and café at the 200-year building which had been standing empty.

On January 2 this year that antiques centre became a reality as the Magistrates Market opened the doors to welcome its dealers, the local community and a future wider audience with plans to hold art exhibitions, antiques valuations and open evenings.

The courthouse was purchased in 2016 by Harrogate local businessman Philip Weatherell, who has strong links to the trade through his mother Kay, owner of the Montpellier Mews Antiques Centre also in Harrogate.

The courthouse opened in 1807 and originally incorporated a police station as well as cells which were deemed by a prisons inspector in 1845 to be ‘unfit for the detention of human beings’.

In the 1960s and ‘70 the courthouse was modernised and the police station moved to a neighbouring building. The courthouse closed in 2013.

Brought back into use

Weatherell – whose grandmother was a magistrate at the courthouse, coincidentally – said: “The most important thing is that this is not just another derelict building.

“Because of the way the high street is changing, it gives small independent people access to retail space without the expense of a retail shop.”

Jodie Goodall will co-manage the market with Michael Cairns. She said: “We currently have around 20-plus dealers, mainly from Yorkshire although some have a presence further afield, who have signed up for floor space and cabinets. These include 18th and 19th century furniture, glass, textiles, lighting, silver, vintage fashion, silver and Oriental pieces.”

Weatherell added: “The venue is likely to host 40 to 50 small businesses, so that’s 40 to 50 reasons to enter the building, and I am absolutely delighted with the response of the local trade and the community to the opening of the Magistrates Market.’’

The business is another example of how, in a stagnating retail environment, antiques and vintage dealers who run small businesses can reap the value of trading in the high street with all the benefits and none of the costs and headaches involved in a single retail unit.

The market is open seven days a week, with floor spaces starting from £150 per week and cabinets £120 per week.