A historic market in Old Stevenage, which has not seen market stalls since 1961, has been revived again after an absence of more than 50 years. The Stevenage Farmers Market set up its stalls again, with customers being taken to market on a vintage bus.
The 1951 RT double-decker Green Line bus was used to ferry passengers, free of charge, from the new town centre to the historic High Street where back in 1223, the first market was held in Old Stevenage. It was in 1961 when the market was moved to the new town and centuries of tradition seemed to have been lost forever. However, following tireless campaigning from Farmers Market Committee member Hugh Madgin, the dream of market stalls selling local fresh produce was able to enjoy a hoary revival.
Stevenage Farmers Market Committee received the go-ahead on Monday for the move from its former secluded location; at the back of a pub car park in the White Lion. Mr Madgin said:
The enthusiasm of the public, councillors and council officers for the move to the historic market location has been terrific.
The market sold the best of locally-grown produce including meats, cheese, plants, breads, fish and real ales. An antediluvian town crier, dressed in period attire, rang a bell and summoned the public to market with a bellowing voice.
Locally produced purple cauliflower on sale at Stevenage Farmers Market. Other tasty vegetables on offer were fennels, sprouts, kale, garden rocket, spinach and yarrow. All of which provided for a feast of anti-oxidants and a healthy compliment to the local meats on sale.
The market will continue for a second Saturday of every other month; plans are afoot to increase the frequency to once a month, subject to demand. The market will remain dedicated solely to produce sold by its growers, farmers and producers. On sale were pork pies and meats from the Farrowby Open Farm in nearby Hinxworth, cheese from a dairy farm in Ardeley, olive breads and locally-brewed real ales including Grumpy Ol' Bastard (ABV 5.0%) and The Wreck (ABV 5.5%).
The High Street has enriched its standing beyond just an old road stuck in the midst of time. It recently hosted a tea party for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and in July nearly 8,000 people lined the route for the Olympic Torch Relay.
The next Stevenage Old Town Farmers Market will take place on Saturday October 13 and there will be a pre-Christmas market at the same location on Saturday December 15. Attempts are afoot to get the market held once per month. This could be likely if the market proves popular and judging by the huge numbers attending on Saturday, a monthly market looks a distinct possibility; particularly if you get an opportunity to ride on a vintage double-decker.
Permission: Stevenage Farmers Market Association
The market occupied much of the High Street, from outside the Red Lion northwards to the Bowling Green. Its centre was no doubt marked by a market cross and although this has long gone, a house of this name existed at the north end of Middle Row in the 18th century.