There has been a market in Penrith since a Royal Charter was granted by Henry 3rd in 1223. Much of the selling would actually take place in and around the town at the variety of inns and public houses, to which farmers would bring their produce, or livestock. At one point there were 57 such public houses in Penrith, and gradually each different place and area of the town would specialise , most obviously perhaps in Cornmarket, where wheat, grain and corn were traded. There was also a fortnighlty cattle and sheep market on Sandgate as well as a weekly general market in the town square.
'Previous to the building of the market hall, the people attending would have to endure the discomfort of exposing their produce in the open streets.'
In 1860 Devonshire Arcade was developed as a covered market by the Local Board of Health behind what is now The George Hotel, previously The George and Dragon Inn, which had been rebuilt in the early 1800's on its present site, although an inn of some sort had stood on that site since about 1595. The Market Hall, as it was then known, was also used for public and political meetings and could hold up to 2,000 people. The second, rear portion, of the market - known then as the butter market - was opened in 1866.
In 1912 it was reported that 'the spacious hall had stalls for fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, butter and dairy produce, as well as live poultry.'
To the rear of the arcade is Sandgate where the livestock markets were held, and to the side is St Andrew’s Church yard. There has been a church on this site since 1133, and directly to the right at the ‘library’ entrance is the former Grammar School (from 1857) and courtyard.
The Devonshire Arcade was extensively and sympasthetically refurbished in 1991 and retains much of its original character. The libarary moved here at that time and had previously been located to the left of the Town Hall, and before that had simply been a reading room located in The Crown Inn at Crown Square.