The English Market had already been in business for 112 years when it entered the 20th Century. The turn of the century saw the decline in markets in Cork, with St Peter’s Market declining rapidly during the first decade.
The years of the First World War were a time of spiralling inflation, especially in food prices which, by the end of 1916 were 84% above their pre-war level. This had an obvious effect on the Market, with more vulnerable traders being granted rent reductions due to the fall-off in trade. Improvement works were suspended due to the increased costs of works.
During the War of Independence, when the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans looted and burned buildings in Cork city, the English Market miraculously escaped the main brunt, but stalls were damaged, and the roof in the Princes Street Market was extensively damaged when fire spread from a nearby store.
There was a gradual decline in the status of the English Market from the mid-1920’s, as a result of a combination of historical factors. The disruption and economic impact of the World War, War of Independence and Civil War all had an impact on Cork, its trade and its administration, and the Market became a casualty of the prolonged economic depression of the City.
However, the Market still retained a certain status, and although parts of it often lay vacant for long periods, it still survived. The Market was modernised and upgraded during the 1960’s, which corresponded with a general upturn in Irish economic fortunes. However, during the 1970’s, the Corporation actively considered a number of plans to demolish the English Market and replace it with a multi-storey block overhead, with retention of a Market space on the ground floor. Intensive lobbying of City Councillors and Corporation with resultant public pressure saw the plans dropped and the Market surviving.
Further refurbishment of the Market took place in the 1970’s, with the roof and flooring replaced, and improvement works to stalls. The opportunity of refurbishment was also used to instigate new trading arrangements – the market traders, unhappy with the vulnerability of weekly tenancies, negotiated improved security of tenure in a new system of granting each stallholder a 21-year lease, with rent reviews every 5 years. Each stallholder would be charged an annual rent, together with a service charge and rates.