THE major renovation work at Market Arcade is moving ahead at full steam, with work progressing behind the scenes.

Since February 2020, multi-million pound work has been taking place at the Victorian arcade, located off the High Street in Newport city centre.

And, while the covid pandemic threw something of a spanner in the works – with all work halting just six weeks in, construction is continuing at this time.

According to site manager Neil Evans, of Anthony A Davies, the construction side of the project currently looks set to be completed by mid-December, or early January.

This week, the Argus was invited to take a look behind the scenes, with a limited number of tours taking place as part of the European Heritage Days scheme.

Here, some parts of the Arcade not normally in the public spotlight were opened up.

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Pictures, taken from the tour show original features which date back to the last major renovation of the market, all the way back in 1905.

This includes a feature fireplace, and a stove.

The arcade is also visible from a rarely seen angle – from atop the footbridge which links the areas above shops on both sides of the arcade.

Thanks to the restoration work, it is even now possible to see a façade dating even further back – the Fennell and Sons sign.

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Though the sign relates to the one-time fishmongers at 11 High Street, the Fennell in question was the brains behind the original market.

When first built, Fennell's Arcade, was built in 1869, to link the newly built railway station (1850), Post Office (1844) and Provisions Market (1862).

In recent years, footfall in that area of the city centre decreased, retailers moved, and the arcade itself started falling into disrepair.

Efforts to fix it were complicated by a quirk – unlike the nearby Newport Arcade which is wholly owned by one person, individual units inside Market Arcade are owned by a variety of different parties.

However, the renovation project has brought the arcade together in a bid to secure its long term future, and while its heritage status prevents security features such as metal shutters from being installed, new gates and overnight security coverage has been installed to give confidence to traders.

For the most part, the arcade will be open to the public during daylight hours, but access will be restricted at other times.

Currently, with construction at a crucial stage, retailers inside are operating on an appointment only basis.

However, construction has been hampered slightly by the ongoing delivery and shipment shortages.

While almost every part of the project has made use of local material as much as is possible, one aspect required sourcing from overseas – slate tiles from South America.

Unfortunately, the contractors have faced delays in these arriving.

However, this is thought to be the only current hurdle, with the delays of last Spring seemingly in the past.

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What has been said about the work?

Neil Evans, site manager for Abergavenny based Anthony A Davies ltd, said: “We’re in the process of laying the market’s main floor back to its original condition.

“We’re probably two thirds of the way through the project. Currently, we’re carrying out the slabbed area, and I’m hoping to hand the project over by maybe mid-December, but it may be early January.”

Steffan Ellis activity plan coordinator on the Market Arcade project for Newport city council: “We’ve been involved now for quite some time. The arcade had become a bit dilapidated so, along with community groups, we started putting together a bid for heritage funding from the lottery.

“We were successful along with monies and support from Cadw and the Welsh Government. We’ve been on board now for a few years, but of course unfortunately there were a few delays due to a variety of reasons,  but including of course, covid.

South Wales Argus:

“In the tendering process we were impressed by Anthony A Davies ltd. They have a history of working on historic and heritage sites and so they’ve been here now working all of the way through. They’ve been very supportive of the community aspect, and that’s why we’re able to keep the public informed and up to date with what’s happening.

“We’re looking forward to the Market Arcade bringing life back to this part of Newport. Here at the northern gateway. In some decades its become a little bit rundown but more and more there’s life coming back to it, along with the market and that project. We’ve got the Market Arcade linking in with other parts of the city.

“We hope this will show that it’s a part of Newport that people should be proud of.”