Bassettlaw is the northernmost district of Nottinghamshire which encompasses the towns of Worksop and Retford. Bassetlaw District Council operates the markets in both of these locations and has recently invested £50k on new stalls, canopies, and lighting systems to improve both the aesthetics from a customer’s perspective and the environment for the traders.
The Royal Charter was granted to Retford first in 1246 by Henry III, allowing a market to be held each Thursday. Edward I extended the charter in 1275 to allow for a Saturday market and granted Worksop their charter in 1296. Although there is some overlap between traders (Retford market is Thursday and Saturday and Worksop Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) the two markets are operated independently by their respective Market Managers.
I met John Simmons who has been looking after Worksop for about three years. He explained how the market had been relocated to the High Street from the Market Square seven years ago and which had a positive impact on trade. They set up a business forum, working with the shops in the new trading area to ensure that accesses weren’t obstructed and that both parties should benefit from the increased footfall. The market is made up of three sections, separated by minor roads with light assisted crossings.
Despite it being a cold, wet winter’s day, the cheery yellow and white striped canopies were welcoming. A couple of traders hadn’t turned up and where access had allowed, the pitches were removed so that the market appeared full.
Worksop may be perceived as Retford’s poorer cousin and a struggling ex-mining community, but it has a great history, some beautiful architecture and some lovely people. The camaraderie amongst the traders was a delight to behold. These are just some of those people who made me welcome.
Jess Tandy of the Vintage Assortment is new to market trading, having joined in October and she said that it was the way that everyone looked out for her that made such a difference.
She had previously owned a sweet shop on the outskirts of town where she sold her homemade fudge but business was slow and her takings have soared since she came on board. Her fudge is her Grandmother’s recipe and she has some interesting flavour combinations alongside traditional favourites and even takes bespoke orders. Jess studied theatre makeup at college and this design flair shows in the way she presents her produce and dresses her stall.
Paul Mitchell is the Market Trade Representative. He has a good relationship with the Market Manager and often manages to deal with any queries or grievances without having to involve the council. A former builder, he started selling workwear and PPE five years and has a good regular trade and fortunately no competition in town. He encouraged his wife Adele to join him in September and she has a stall next door to him selling glass and giftware that they purchased from a liquidation sale. Her lines are numerous and this allows her to offer different items each week to keep customers coming back.
Janice of Lots 4 Tots baby wear is one of the town’s longstanding traders. She has been in the business for around twenty years, fifteen of which have been at Worksop. She trades on all three days and has a good client base despite quite a lot of competition from High Street stores. Her customers keep her up to date on baby news, often bringing them along to show her.
Mr Ahmed, who sells Ladies’ Fashions has been trading at Worksop for three years having previously sold on Mansfield market for eighteen years. He said of Worksop, ‘This is a better market and closer for me. Everyone is really friendly. I have a good pitch and regular customers.’
An unusual find for a market is the selection of buggies that Clare Hallam of Discount Baby Equipment has on display. She has sourced ex High Street brands, end of lines and ex display models, having previously sold second hand buggies at local flea markets. Over the years she has built up a strong customer base, due to the fact that all her products come with a guarantee and a competitive price. I think her bubbly personality will also have a lot to do with her success! She commented, ‘I love working here, I think it’s brill!’
Another unusual stall was that belonging to local man Graham Middleton. Since September he has been selling bass, lead, electric and acoustic guitars, ukuleles and accessories. He plays himself and teaches and has picked up several new customers since he started. He commented, ‘It was definitely worthwhile doing this, everyone is really friendly and people are starting to know I am here now.’
Angela from Diamonds Shoes was on a ‘free rent’ day after winning the competition for the best dressed Christmas stall. Attention to detail is something that she prides herself in and this showed in the way that she displayed her boots and shoes. She just sells at Worksop now and said of the market, ‘I have a good trade. It’s like a family here and everyone looks after each other.’
John and Marina Jewitt run a sweetshop in Hardy Street, but the closure of the bus station had a major affect on business, so to combat this, in October, Marina stayed in the shop and John brought a section of the shop to the market whereby he offers a selection of over 100 jars of pay and weigh sweets, many of which are from local manufacturers. He also sells newspapers and a few individual kids’ sweets such as lollipops and jellies. He hopes to introduce a bean to cup coffee machine, which is currently unused in the shop and is delighted that he has attracted some regular customers. John had a permanent smile on his face and this friendly approach would no doubt have ensured that his customers returned.
A and M Peters is the trading name used by Alan and May Peters who have been selling hosiery and nightwear for the last 47 years. They took over from Alan’s parents in 1957 and their son David has also joined the business. They have also diversified in to school wear and sell logoed items for local schools, which have proven to be very popular.
Another family business is D&G Fruits from Nottingham. Based at the top of the market trading area they have a three-sided frontage and can be found there on all three days. The family has over 60 years experience of market trading and have been at Worksop for three-four years.
Nine miles away in Retford, trade was steady on the market square and Market Manager Carol Vanderhoven took time out of her day to introduce me to some of the traders.
The market square is vast and at full capacity holds up to 125 stalls. The new blue and white canopies stand out from around the various entrance points around town and it is easy for visitors to establish where the market is. There was a friendly atmosphere amongst the traders and it was clear that friendships had been forged over the years. As well as the Thursday and Saturday markets, they have an Antiques and Collectors Fair on a Friday and a Farmer’s Market on the third Saturday of the month. Totally Locally, the Retford Business Forum, has been working with the Market on joint ideas and promotions.
Joanne Drinkall of Jeaniliious (named after her Nan) has been selling home baked goods for two and a half years. It certainly didn’t appear that the people of Retford’s New Year Resolution was dieting as her products were disappearing like (ahem!) hot cakes! My willpower was unwavering, helped by the fact that I hadn’t brought my purse out with me, but her savoury goods, such as ‘Nan’s way’ sausage rolls, quiches and tarts really made my mouth water. Just trading on a Saturday, her lines vary weekly and will include dairy and gluten free offerings and she also takes bespoke orders. Such is her success that she hopes to open a shop, but she is adamant that she won’t give up the market. Where possible, she sources local ingredients and a sign on her stand proudly promotes this. She even gets her eggs from the egg man on the market.
The Egg Man is in fact John Harden and he trades at both Retford and Worksop markets. All his eggs are free range and local. As well as traditional hens’ eggs, he also sells duck, goose (when in season) and quail, with double yokers when he has them. He has been trading for 17 years, having previously sold petfood and vegetables as well and for the last five years he has concentrated on eggs. He has a sign at the top end of the market and a high one that is fixed to his single stand and he seemed to attract plenty of customers.
Tim and Gill Fieldhouse can be found opposite John and they also serve both markets.
Tim has 36 years service under his belt and Gill joined him 12 years ago, selling a vast range of cotton, linen and poly-cotton fabrics. More recently they introduced vinyls. Gill explained that thanks to crafting programmes on TV, a new, younger generation were coming forward and they had lots of regular customers. There is a haberdashery stall at Retford, a bit further along and they work together directing trade to each other.
Nora’s Wool is the trading name for Chris Hodkin’s wool and haberdashery stall. Nora was her mother in law and her father in law started the business. Her stalls are a vast and colourful array of ribbons, buttons and wools and she commented that she is always busy.
Nobody seemed busier though that Debbie Lowther in her mobile key cutting and watch repairs van. In fact, I struggled to get to speak with her and she had a constant stream of customers. She also sells new watches, straps and batteries and has been on the market for eight years.
It’s always heartening to see a new and enthusiastic trader and it was virtually impossible to miss Godson Ogwudire of UK Mama Soul Food’s African music, bright banner and big smile! He had been trading on Thursdays for a few months but had other food fair and event commitments. He was missed and customers asked him to come back so he thought he would give Saturdays a try. His food includes jerk chicken, curried goat and rice and peas. Vegetarian dishes were also available. He let me sample his wares and I can confirm that it was all delicious and very welcome on a cold, winter’s day. The council provide the electrics for him which he admits would be virtually impossible to trade without them.
Just up from Godson is farmer butcher Robert Bowring. His beef is from his own farm, the lamb from Worksop and his pork from a village five miles away. His sausages and pies are award winning and they have their own bakehouse for cooking the pastry items, haslet and black pudding (Which are the biggest pieces I have ever seen and I think I know a bit about black pudding!) Robert can be found at markets throughout the midlands and has been at Retford on a Saturday for around five years. The onus is only quality and he has a good, regular trade.
One of the characters of the market is Colin Stain. He has been selling footwear for 42 years and is downsizing, with plans to retire, having recently stopped trading on Thursdays. He has also reduced his stock to work boots. He said of the market, ‘we have a good, old fashioned trader group here. There’s a lot of banter goes on between us.’
Tony Latham of Latham and Lewis says that they have been selling fruit and veg for around fifty years. They had had a busy day and Tony reiterated how important it was to offer a personal service and different varieties of produce. He has seen younger people taking more interest in fresh produce and they often ask him for advice.
Pete and Steph Godburn sell a vast array of what they describe as household lines and started on the market 30 years ago with a 50p stall. Despite a lot of competition in town, their regulars know that what they sell is quality products at good prices.
Polly the collie/lab cross was busy doing her trader rounds. She belongs to Collies Pets owner’s John and Julie Colclough. They have been at Retford for three years selling pet food, bedding and accessories, trading on both days. John commented, ‘Saturday is fantastic but the footfall is good on both days, it helps being up from the fruit and vegetable stalls. We’ve made some good friends here, the banter is great and everyone helps each other out.’
Another husband and wife team are Paula and Dave Trusswell who have been selling hosiery and nightwear to the people of Retford for 37 years. Paula explained, ‘We have lots of regular customers and there is no one else selling what we sell now. All the nursing homes in the area know we are here’
I couldn’t finish without mentioning what Carol referred to as The Retford Market lovestory’. Simon White of just James Trading met his fiancée Suzanne online and she has relocated to be with him and helps him on his market stall selling socks, hats and scarves as well as assisting with his online business which sells the same lines.
Contacts and Rates
Both markets have availability for new traders and are fully serviced, which includes a fully erected stall with canopy, power if required, lighting, bins and refuse collection. If you would like to join these friendly communities, details of pricing can be found at:
Telephone: 01909 487749