The re-erection of the old Round House that stood in Bury St Edmunds Cattle Market is an intriguing component of the current redevelopment at MEAL. Built in 1864 and sometimes referred to as the Settling House, the building was used to settle accounts between farmers and a merchants on market day. The building also had a licence to sell ‘ buns and ginger beer’. The building was dismantled in 2007 to make way for the ARC a modern shopping centre.
The Round House was delivered to MEAL in a packing crate in 2009 having been meticulously dismantled by the works department of St Edmundsbury Borough Council. Last week, our builders Haymills began to unpack the building to check that all the pieces are there, they are relishing the challenge of fitting the jigsaw together.
Deciding upon the final resting place for the Round House was not without conjecture. Many people wanted it to remain in Bury, re-located on another site in town. Both cost and lack of appropriate location precluded St Edmundsbury Borough Council from resiting the building. The museum will treat the building with the care and attention it deserves as its placed near to the Robert Boby building an 1860s workshop from Bury St Edmunds.
The Round House was a connector of rural life and the market town a place where town and country came together to do business and renew friendships. Its demise, long after the Cattle Market in Bury St Edmunds ceased to be, signifies the passing of the Market Town as a hub for local trading. The local economy and society of towns like Bury and Stowmarket is no longer based on agriculture or land based industry, but on services, light industry and tourism. Few of the members of the very nice Bury Farmers Club are farmers. The Settling House is as much a remnant of the past as the museum’s obsolete traction engines and threshing machines. However rather than it be seen as a curious little building, the Round House should remind us of the days when our market towns were more than just glorified shopping centres.