The Staffordshire Moorlands is predominantly a rural district of 222 square miles and boasts beautiful landscapes, miles of public footpaths and stunning views. Approximately one third of the district is within the Peak National Park, making it an ideal tourist destination.
The market town of Leek is the largest town located in the centre of the district, with the smaller market towns of Biddulph in the north and Cheadle in the south. The district is home to many well-known beauty spots including Dovedale, Manifold Valley, Churnet Valley, The Roaches, Tittesworth Reservoir and of course, Alton Towers, the UK’s leading attraction.
The National Trust Garden at Biddulph Grange is also of national importance and the Churnet Valley Railway is becoming very popular with visitors. The town has had a regular cattle market for hundreds of years, reflecting its role as a centre of local farming. Following the Industrial Revolution it was a major producer of textiles, with silk working in particular coming to dominate the industrial landscape. However, this industry has now ceased.
Markets are the oldest type of commerce and can help attract footfall to High Streets. Leek is no exception. Like so many markets across the country, Leek’s had been in steady decline for several years. The impact of the car, supermarkets and internet shopping has changed the way we live and shop. However, over the past three years Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands has reversed this trend with a slow but steady market growth, and a renewed confidence in the many assets the town and the district has to offer the welcome visitor.
For shoppers, Leek’s bustling, historical town centre has an inviting mix of independent shops, cafes, pubs and boutiques, sitting side by side with well-known High Street names and a welcome variety of new and established markets licensed by the District Council.
A rationalisation in the way they stage the markets; closer working relationships with all involved and the purchase of smart new ‘Pop Up’ green and white liveried market stalls, has all helped with the success going forward. Markets are held on: Wednesdays: The Leek Wednesday outdoor general retail market has a charter that was established over 800 years ago.
King John gave permission to Ranulph de Blundville, the sixth Earl of Chester, to hold a weekly Wednesday market and a seven day fair in Leek. The market and fair were probably well established by this time, but the first market held under the 13th Century charter was in 1207. This makes the Leek Charter Market one of the oldest such markets in the country.
It now has over 50 general outdoor market stalls and a traditional indoor Victorian Butter Market and Trestle Market (celebrating 117 years of existence), with another 50. Fridays: the Butter Market is open, alongside an Archer Fairs Collectables indoor Trestle Market. Saturdays: has its outdoor Archer Fairs Antiques & Collectors Market, which has been serving Leek for over 20 years, along with the indoor Butter Market and Trestle Market.
The first Sunday of the month is the new and popular Sunday Supplement artisan market, run by Totally Locally (Leek) Ltd. On the third Saturday of the month there is a specialist Fine Food outdoor market and a general market. Leek also features specialist markets during the year such as the Food & Drink Festival in March – an extravaganza of exotic foods and drink with over 100 stalls from around the country. In late November there is the Leek Town Council’s Christmas lights switch-on and market heralding in the festive season and the build up to Christmas. And just before Christmas, Leek goes Victorian, with a festive look and feel with its Dickensian markets, shops, activities and lively street entertainment.
As well as all the above regular markets, the District Council works with Archer Fairs, Totally Locally and the Town Council to help stage many themed special events and markets throughout the year. One such event is Men & Motors, showing a variety of classic vehicles to add further interest on a market day – all helping to promote Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands as a tourist destination of choice. If you are interested in becoming a trader at any of these markets or would like to find out any further information you can contact Leek Tourist Information Centre on 01538 483741 or visit www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/markets.
The markets are currently welcoming enquiries for both the indoor and outdoor markers and depending on availability, will try and fit in traders when and where they can.
Markets Manager, David Murrell, told Market Trade News,
“Here’s to the next 800 years!”
Kevin Harper, of Archer Fairs Ltd, has been running an Antiques and Collectors Market for 20 years in Leek and was originally asked to come in to help revive the town centre. Over this time he has built a really good relationship with the council and many of the traders. From May 6th the Antiques Market will have new stalls occupying over half of Market Place to encourage even more people to market on a Wednesday. It will join up with the indoor and outdoor market, meaning stalls will run all the way through the town centre, further enhancing Leek’s brilliant shopping experience.
Telephone 01538 483741