Charity begins at Rugeley
Rugeley is a historic market town, situated in Staffordshire’s Cannock Chase district and was considered in 1834 to be ‘the largest and handsomest market town in the Cuttlestone hundred’, although research suggests it was one of only two.
It has always been an industrial town and was a centre for deep shaft coal mining during the 1950s. The National Coal Board also opened its first modern pit here in 1960 and, along with two power stations, quickly turned Rugeley in to a thriving town. Unfortunately, as in many mining communities, the closure of the pits had an impact on the town’s prosperity. A market has been held here since the 13th century when the Royal Charter was signed in 1259. It was granted to the Bishop of Coventry that a market may be held in the manor of Rugeley every Thursday.
This expanded to further trading on a Saturday as well as a Tuesday cattle market and the outdoor market still operates on these days. The Indoor Market Hall is situated in Bees Lane and is open four days a week and operated by Cannock Chase District Council. It was opened in August 1980 and prior to this, traders were selling from temporary ‘huts’ in Brewery Street as the original Market Hall and Town hall were converted into sheltered accommodation and shops.
There is one person still selling their wares to the people of Rugeley that have sold at all three sites and I went to meet him and some of his fellow traders to find out more about their interaction with the Rugeley community. The entrance to the market is easy to spot with its large blue sign. When closed the shutters make an attractive sight with a woodland image depicting a fox and badgers, linking in its close proximity to Cannock Chase which has been deemed an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This was organised by the council last year as part of a Youth Engagement Project during the summer holidays and involved youngsters and their families creating the art along with a professional spray artist.
Once inside Rugeley market, the first stall you see is the colourful and well-presented clothing and accessories of Lachmere, owned by Angela Walker. Angie has been at the market for 28 years, first serving on her now husband’s butchery counters before setting up her own stall selling crystals, jewellery and pre-loved furniture items. She set up the ladies fashions business, specialising in plus sized clothes, after noticing a gap in the market and in the seven weeks of trading, she is very positive.
FUNDRAISING AND THE COMMUNITY
Angie is also one of the key members of the Market Traders Committee which was set up five months ago after the previous one folded. They have a Market Traders Levy which stall holders contribute £1 per week and goes towards advertising and promotion of the market. They meet every four weeks to discuss any issues that they may have; to pool ideas for increasing footfall through special events, such as at Easter where they had a hunt the teddy competition and the stall holders wore fancy dress, as well as the opportunity to put forward fundraising opportunities. Fundraising is something that the Rugeley traders have fully embraced and their charitable efforts are noticeable throughout the market.
A number of stalls are set aside for charities, including Birman Cat Rescue, which Angie is the regional representative for, and Cancer Research ,the market’s chosen charity for the year, both of which currently stock a large amount of new and second hand books. Their fundraising efforts don’t stop there; throughout the market are posters of 29 year old local lad, Anthony Bowley who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease eight years ago. His family are trying to raise funds for a specially adapted garden, which allows wheelchair access and will give Anthony quality time outside with his family and friends rather than being cooped up indoors. They have collected a large number of soft toys which Angie and some of the other traders have been busy washing and brushing up, and now take pride of place on a dedicated tombola stall. A fun day is planned at the market to support this charity on 22 August and confirmed events include a marching band performing outside the front entrance, the tombola, face painting and a beautiful baby competition. A more recent fundraising activity raised £350 for the special baby care unit at the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire.
This was driven by Sue Shaw, proprietor of Holly’s Café, which is situated at the rear of the market, who prematurely lost her 9 month old daughter Holly, whom the café is named after. A number of activities took place, including selling homemade cakes and a member of staff being sponsored to not eat chips for a month!
Sue’s husband bought the café for her in November 2013 and they serve a large selection of homemade meals, specialising in pies and puddings, which whetted my appetite. A local chef complemented them on their cottage pie, saying it was the best they’d ever eaten. They try to cater for everyone and are continually adapting the menu. The opening times of the market mean that they miss out on the early trade and Sundays but they remain optimistic, saying, ‘the managers are really working hard for us.’
Tracey Pierpont manages the unisex hair salon, Serenity and gets a good mix of regular and walk in trade. She has a sign outside the market to encourage people in as well as doing leaflet drops and advertising and says that the market promotions, fun days and charity events all help to promote her business and bring in more customers. She helped raise £136 for a cancer fund by holding a pyjama and onesie day, a bucket collection and selling cakes. Mick has been running the Bread Basket for five years following a period of unemployment and is ‘doing okay.’ He commented that he was keeping his head above water in difficult times, having to compete with high street bakeries and the supermarkets but he does have his regular customers. His wife Shirley helped him out on the stall before setting up SP Needlecraft opposite in November. She specialises in making soft toys, cushions and bags as well as alterations and found that she ‘may as well work here as from home’. She has had what she describes as a ‘good run’ and although things are slowing down a little over the holiday period, it gives her the opportunity to get ahead in preparation for Christmas!
Another former ‘work from home’ trader is Pat Rollins of Just 4 U. Selling homemade cards, jewellery, scarves, bags and flowers; she likes the fact that being indoors she can work from her stall. She has been at Rugeley for six months having previously sold at craft fairs, which she still does on a Sunday. After noticing a gap in the market, Paul started selling fruit and veg and cut flowers at Rugeley in April. Although take up has been quite slow, he realises that it is still early days. All his produce is fresh every day and he offers a free delivery service. He will also combine it with other goods purchased within the market, meaning customers can get all their shopping in once place and not have to carry it home. Richard Walker from ‘Meat to Please You ‘is the longest serving trader with over 40 years of serving the people of Rugeley at all three locations. He is the only traditional butcher left now in the town and stocks a range of raw and cooked meats and eggs. He has seen lots of changes and ‘has had some excellent years’. The butchery is done on site and he can prepare to the customer’s requirements as well as ordering additional items for them. He has built up a large and loyal customer base, although they are mostly seniors and he would like to attract younger shoppers.
At the opposite end of the scale, David has been promoting his solar panel business at the market for just three weeks. He is there on a casual lease as part of a team of five covering local markets and was very pleased to get a sale in his first week.
Another long standing stall holder is Jim Healey, who has been keeping the dentists in the area in business for over 20 years! The sweet smell is enticing and he sells a large range of confectionary from old fashioned sweets by ‘the quarter’ to pick and mix and well-known brands. His discerning customers often buy large quantities at a time, some of which are used as treats for goats and horses! He has served whole generations over the years and I can attest that his dark chocolate toffees were delectable! Ann, of Dorothy Ann, has worked on the market for 35 years, 13 of which was for herself, selling silk flowers. She spoke highly of the good rapport between the traders, commenting how another stall holder had sold her stock for her whilst she was on holiday. She was also busily involved with the tombola stalls one which was for the Anthony Bowley appeal, the other for the trader’s charity.
My personal award for the best stocked stall has to go to Derek Poynton of DP Pet Supplies. His eye-catching, colourful array of pet related goods brought a number of customers to his stall whilst I was there, despite having competition from the local supermarket and pound shop.
Former Ebay seller Sarah Hodgson set up her Just for Kidz outlet in September and trade has been so good that she has relocated to a larger stall. The market is keen to encourage new and younger traders and another of their success stories is Rachael from R&A’s Fancy dress. Her mum, Annette, who helps on the stall, encouraged Rachael to start the business when she was just 16 years old. She sells fancy dress costumes and accessories as well as party goods and recently purchased the stock from a greetings card retailer who was retiring. They will be supporting the charity day in August and Annette, who is a taxi driver, has offered to share half the fares that she takes on the day with the charity. The stall’s position at the front of the hall helps to bring in younger customers which the market team are keen to engage with. The hall is often used for a number of school based activities, including decorated trolleys for the Charter Day Parade, arts and crafts during the summer holidays and lantern making for the Christmas Lantern Parade. There were a couple of other traders based at Rugeley who preferred not to be included in the article, they are a mobile phone trader and a computer software specialist, both of whom were busy with customers.
RATES AND SPECIAL OFFERS
There are a number of units available for lease and the management team have put together a concessionary start-up package to attract new traders. Stalls range from £35- £100 and the first 6 months’ rent is half price. The following three months are charged at 75% of the full rate and then going to full price after 12 months. The market is currently open from 09.00-16.30 on Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays. Traders interested in joining the community spirit at Rugeley Market should contact Cannock Chase Council on 01543 464558 or visit their website http://www.Cannockchasedc.gov.uk and follow the links on the right hand side.
Telephone 01543 464 558