Retro: Wellingborough market

Not for the first time in its history, Wellingborough Market has had a makeover.

Stalls are being moved and a central area is to be created for town centre promotions.

Wellingborough market in 1955

Wellingborough market in 1955

The town was granted a market charter by King John in 1201, which gave the town permission to hold a weekly market.

The market proved so popular that a later charter allowed the town to also hold a market on Wednesdays. In 1447 the king granted the town permission to also hold two fairs a year and in 1590 Queen Elizabeth confirmed the charter and the two fairs, which in those days lasted for four days each.

According to the book A History of Wellingborough, written by Joyce and Maurice Palmer, the market led to a substantial increase in trade for Wellingborough and brought in people from the surrounding area both to buy and sell goods.

The markets of medieval times were held on the steps of and close to the market cross.

By the 18th century the market was starting to outgrow its site at the front of the Hind Hotel. Until the 19th century it was hemmed in by buildings, with the north end being blocked in by houses and becoming known as Butchers Row. On market days butchers, as well as people selling butter and eggs, greengrocers and tradesmen selling cheap pottery, would set up their stalls in front of the buildings.

Butchers Row was pulled down in 1874 to make space for the market and a corn exchange was built in 1861. In 1865 the cattle market was moved to the east of the corn exchange and in 1905 it was moved again to Brook Orchard and a row of thatched cottages demolished to create space to make the market square. The Castle theatre now stands on the site of the old cattle market. The corn exchange later became a regal cinema. The market was still going strong in the 1950s and in 1955 it was possible to buy an overcoat from a market stall for £5.19.6d.

Traditional markets in many towns are struggling, and Wellingborough is no exception.

Stephen Dunkley from Wellingborough Norse, the company which looks after the market on behalf of the council, said: “We have a large number of stalls but, like many markets throughout the country, we don’t fill them all.

“At the moment fewer than half of the 101 stalls are ever occupied. Many markets are struggling but we will keep trying different things to help ours thrive.”

Bid to increase popularity

Wellingborough Market is getting a makeover this week, as work takes place to improve the layout and create a dedicated events space.

Ten of the 101 stalls will be removed from the north-west corner of the market place, near the churchyard, which will create a central area to be used for town centre promotions and events.

Alongside that, a further seven stalls will be removed from the back of the QD building, which has suffered in the past with anti-social behaviour.

It’s hoped that by removing the hidden areas created by these specific stalls, the issue will be reduced.

The borough council and Wellingborough Norse have more than doubled promotion of the market over the past 12 months, including running competitions, putting up promotional banners, increasing advertising and smartening up the stalls with new end boards.

The market hosts the first Wellingborough Food Festival next month. More information about Wellingborough Market can be found at www.wellingborough.gov.uk/market.