The first Market House in Crossmaglen was built by local landlord Thomas Ball in 1811 and was located where the Cross Square Hotel now stands. It was replaced in 1863 by a new Market House, which was built on the site of the present community centre. The ground floor had a weighbridge and was used to weigh poultry, grain, potatoes and other farm produce. The second floor acted as a courthouse which sat monthly on a Saturday. For the remainder of the time, the upper floor was used by the local drama group and schools for pantomimes and plays. It was also used by the GAA and other local groups for meetings.
In 1944, a Belfast native Richard Hayward leased the upper floor as a cinema and on 19th March 1944 the first “talkie” film ever shown in Crossmaglen, “The Arabian Knights” was screened. Silent movies had been shown weekly for a number of years prior to this.
In 1952, a local woman was before the court in the Market House charged with smuggling eggs. After giving her evidence, the RM Mr Wilson commented, “the trouble is that you can’t believe a word that the people around this part say.” This comment caused a major outcry such that the local county councillor, later to become Member of Parliament Eddie Richardson, demanded an apology. However, no apology was forthcoming and on the 19th September 1952 the clerk of the council, arriving for a court hearing, found the entrance gates locked. With the aid of four policemen and a crowbar, they broke the gate down only to find their way blocked by the same Eddie Richardson, who was chained to the Market House door. Almost an hour later, Eddie was removed to the barracks and appeared in court on 3rd October 1952. At the hearing, the offending RM Mr Wilson did not appear as he had been replaced and Eddie was fined £3. This fine was never paid.
Mr Hayward’s lease of the cinema ended in 1954 and the cinema was taken over by the parish priest Canon Murray, who managed it until 1969. By this stage, the petty sessions had been transferred to Newry.
On 25th July 1974 the Market House was burnt to the ground by a unit of the British Army stationed in Crossmaglen who alleged it contained explosives and arms that could not be made safe except by burning the building. In the years that followed, local groups lobbied government ministers to have a community centre built in its place and in 1982 permission was granted. Work commenced in December 1982 and the stone facade of the old market house was incorporated into the building. The new community centre was officially opened in May 1984. The bell from the old Market House is on display in the foyer of the community centre. The new community centre has lots of information on the area and houses the Ring of Gullion team.