By Pat Malkin


   Extract from the Worksop Guardian


There are still hundreds of older residents who will remember when the Saturday market was a valued Worksop institution and, as the market usually began to function at about the same time as it now comes to close, and was carried on until Markets Superintendant Edward Fuller rang his warning bell at something like 11 p.m. the description : “Worksop Market on Saturday Night” becomes abundantly clear.

As a matter of fact, many of the stall – holders “stood” Retford market before coming on to Worksop (which was only accomplished by means of slow horse drawn conveyance) whilst the local fruiterers and greengrocers had to make a tour of various parts of the town with their well stocked drays before turning their faces in the direction of the Market Place.

In addition, most of the butchers having establishments outside the main thoroughfares, also had to put in a hard day’s work at their own shops before transferring their stock-in-trade to the particular section of the market set apart from their class-of-trade, where they were joined by rival firms from outside such as Raynors of Mansfield, and Tom Carter, of Eckington.

But many of the principal butchers shops were in close proximity to the market place of it’s approaches and were so arranged that the Sunday joints, conveniently cut to size, could be displayed ‘ outside’ the actual shop windows, while the master man and his assistants would loudly urge the passing crowds to “pick where you like” and the customers could have the purchase weighed, wrapped up and handed over without the formality of entering the shop premises.

Yes, this section and purchase of the Sunday joint was quite a carefully carried out ritual and was not finally completed until several displays had been closely examined, and, whilst the housewives conducted this important part of the weeks programme (and also indulged in a chat on the local current topics with friends in the other parts of the town who were only encountered on this particular occasion) the husband enjoyed their confab over a glass of something nourishing in one of the several ‘ dram shops’ which then existed in the immediate neighbourhood .

Inside the Market, all the pandemonium, the greengrocers all shouting at the top of their voices,-Joe Shepherd, George Brammer, Robert Foster, George (carthorse) Taylor and others each vociferously proclaiming the quality of wares and the reasonableness of his prices by comparison with those of his neighbours, then there were the butchers appealing with equal zeal to potential purchases to “sort em out ladies”, “pick where you like”.

Who can forget the hot pea stalls and those with their neat white plates, reinforced by supplies of pepper, salt and vinegar, set out ready and waiting for the palate provoking of the numerous clients who eagerly looked forward to a “blow out” of these succulent dainties each Saturday night, or the pleading exhortations of the fish dealers, who cried with the butchers and the greengrocers in extolling their commodities?

One of the most popular stands was that where Taylors dispensed their locally manufactured boiled sweets, without a supply of which one scarcely ventured home for fear of incurring the wrath of the younger generation.  There were Shah Drops, pear drops, butter drops, bull’s eyes, lemon drops, cough drops and a host of other varieties, any particular type (or a pot potpourri mixture of all the lot) to be obtained for the unbelievable price to-day of sixpence per pound- enough sweets for a ‘tanner’ to last a family the whole of the succeeding week!.

Sometimes the well-known areas of the regulars were completely put in the shade by those of a pot vender, where raucous “Mock Auctions” accompanied by the rattling of his wares as he banged them together to exhibit their strong constitution, and the  still even more practiced lectures of a travelling quack doctor who claimed to be qualified to cure every ailment under the sun: but these were only occasional visitors.

After dark, the stalls were illuminated by naphtha flare lamps prepared under the supervision of the Market Manager who lived on Negate St.

Compared with the neat and effective electric lights of the present day, these flares were both awkward and dangerous, besides possessing a distinctly unpleasant odour; but one supposes it was the only available method then obtainable.

As the time drew nigh for the cessation of operations, it was not unknown for these Worksopians in actual want (as well as some who could not claim that unfortunate disadvantage) to parade slowly, and with obvious intent, the rows of stalls in the hope of picking up some inconsiderable trifle either especially cheap or without cost at all, and many a generously inclined butcher or fish merchant has handed out his last joint rather than take the trouble to pack it up for return to headquarters.  Yes, no end of poor families enjoyed a cheap Sunday dinner through being in the right place at the right time.

But wars, and the accompanying threats from the air brought an end to the Provision Market held on Saturday nights, and many an old resident, walking down a deserted Bridge Street at about the time when that thoroughfare was once upon a time packed with people mainly anxious to spend their weekly income to the best advantage, sighs, unavailingly it seems to me, for the return of the old days and the eagerly awaited event, “Saturday night parades to the top of the street.

This page was added by Pat Malkin on 06/01/2011.

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