Love it or loathe it, the new design of the Market Place is unlikely to last more than 20 years if previous arrangements to cope with the space are anything to go by. The problem is that the needs of traffic and pedestrians and to have a public open space in the middle of town conflict and each design represents a different attempt to square a circle.

In the early years of the century, the space was used for parades, civic displays, maypole dancing, and other celebrations. The regular market was held fortnightly but in 1919 it was moved to Newton Lane where it continued until the 1950s. As the 20th century progressed, more and more cars used the area as a car park along the roadside and around Lord Palmerston’s statue.

The furniture around the statue has varied over the years. Sometimes there was nothing around it, sometimes it was graced with four elegant gas lamps, and sometimes it was surrounded by chains on posts. Old Mr Ward, who lived in the Manor House in Palmerston Street, said the chains were very useful for tying animals to on Market Days.

Then a small plinth was created around the statue and to the south there was parking space for two green Hants and Dorset buses. Wilts and Dorset had red buses and these, usually single-deckers, parked on the western side alongside the chemist’s shop.

After the bus station was built and opened for business in the early 1970s, the central area became something of a car park. Then the plinth around the statue was enlarged and made an excellent place for the salute to be taken when there were ceremonial marchpasts, for example on the mayor’s Sunday church parade or Armistice Sunday.

In 1977, the queen’s silver jubilee was celebrated with a tea party for local children which blocked the entire space with tables and chairs, so traffic would have been diverted for the day. Incidentally the furniture was borrowed from local schools and had to be returned afterwards which was a demanding exercise.

At some stage floral baskets have become fashionable. They were supplemented by large planters that stood on the ground. Some of these were put around the statue. They had a wide lip which was excellent to stand on when giving talks about the Market Place. They were subsequently replaced by a different design that could not be stood on so a convenient perch was lost for town centre guides.

Phoebe Merrick