For more than a century the six town centres of the Potteries and those across North Staffordshire have shared at least one thing in common, aside from their industrial roots, each has had a market at their heart.
For many of us when it comes to where we work, shop and carry out our business, the presence of a town centre filled with stalls and the hustle and bustle of crowds has been a welcome mainstay whch have been a hub of many of our communities.
As far back as 1776, Hanley has had full market rights along with an indoor market hall. The towns original market hall was opened in 1849 on the site of the former Swan Inn and for the best part of the past 100 years has been a destination for local shopper sand traders.
Loud and booming in the ears of many local folk during the early part of the 20th century, the following anoymous quote reflects the market atmosphere and sums up the personality of the square and its community: “The busy streets in the Potteries town of Hanley hears the news vendor’s cry – ‘Final, City Final’ – trade is brisk with dramatic headlines repeated in every conversation.”
Those early words belted out in Market Square, gave a clear and warming view of what life was like as people came by tram, bus and foot to buy their groceries and meet with friends, chatting over the fruit and veg as the trader shouts out the content of their latest deal or arrival.
All across the Potteries, Longton, Fenton, Burslem, Stoke and Tunstall have each had their own indoor and outdoor incarnation of the market, filled with independent traders and those visiting from further afield. Businesses such as grocers and hardware traders would travel from town to town across North Staffordshire and the Staffordshire Moorlands selling their wares to the folk of places such as Leek and Newcastle.
Today despite, and in the face, of growing economic pressures and changes, with the rise of the brand name and online retailers. The humble heart of our town centres, our market’s futures have been put at risk more than at any other time.
But that is not to say their impact and contribution is any less diminished, for they have and do offer something truly unique, which perhaps more modern retail houses do not – community.
Taking a daily, weekly trip to the market was and still is so much more than a journey to pick up your meat and two veg for Sunday.
Venturing into any one of these social hubs is a chance to see familiar faces, both in front of and behind the counter, they are places where being a ‘regular’ means something – you are valued.
In your local market you can stop off for a cuppa and an oatcake, safe in the knowledge that at some point, even if not planned you will see someone you know, and ‘take five’ to catch up before filling up your grocery bag for the week and heading off home.
Now more than ever in the face of the restriction faced due to the coronavirus, when things return to some sort of normal and they will, these longstanding markets and town centres which for so long have been at the heart of our industrial home will be a vital resource in restoring our independent businesses, economy but most of all our communities.
What memories of the regions markets do you have? Get in touch with Adam Gratton at The Way We Were, Sentinel House, Bethesda Street, Hanley, ST1 3GN or call 01782 864255 or email: email@example.com