Fleeting Memories: The Old Market

BY ANNE PODMORE

Warrington Golden Square Logi“Coming out of the Post Office and into Golden Square, I sat down on one of the seats for a rest. It was a grey afternoon in January and I was waiting for a friend to join me.

Suddenly, the air was full of shouting and a bustling and jostling crowd of shoppers! I was sitting in the middle of a street at the side of the fish market, from which came the cries of “a lovely bit of fish for tea, Mrs”- “fresh shrimps”. At a stall at the end of the fish market, a woman stood, hands on hips a flat black cap on her head and a sack apron tied around her ample waist. Old Charlie Lee sat, his black board at his side with a witty ditty chalked upon it, rabbits hung from the sides of the stalls and cock chickens too, with their heads swinging in the draught. Folks were pushing and shoving their way through the stone flagged market between the stalls, fish and poultry gave way to the tripe stall on the left with its peculiar smell, and “Cheese Jimmy” on the right where his silver haired sister bounced up and down in her efforts to cut through a huge cheese with a wire.

Then up 3 or 4 stone steps and you were in the Meat Hall where the butchers stood besides haunches of beef, hatchets at the ready, to make chops and joints to sell and to display on their counters. One could also purchase fresh vegetables and newly laid eggs from the stall at the top of the steps. Bread and biscuits were sold here too. Looking back from the top of the steps down into the well of the fish market, crowds of people, men women and children of Warrington, did their shopping, mainly on Wednesdays and Fridays. Walking back through the shouting and clamour and smells of the market, one emerged at the far end facing the Barley Mow, a row of peddlers selling anything from pegs to dusters, dishcloths and hankies on the pavement and along the old wall of the inn.

At the side of the Mow ran Market Street a busy thoroughfare leading to the wholesale vegeta ble market, passed Stirrups Butchers on the left and lower down the “rag” market with more shops. Some spring to mind, Peakes the grocers, Gaskells the bacon people, Morleys where shoes could be left to be heeled and soled and wallpaper purchased and Suttons provided linoleum by the roll and Geddes the tea and coffee merchant. In Market Street stood the “Cattle Market Inn”, the venue of farmers who came to town to barter for the best prices for their grain and produce. Across the street from the Cattle Market entry could be gained into the huge “rag” market where anything from shop soiled linen to carpets materials and bedding, could be bought very cheaply, Here were Butterworths, Harts and Baileys, Naylors (taffe Naylor) to name but a few. Stall upon stall of everything that anyone could want. The heart of the town of Warrington.

Walking back up to the other end, passed the large clock which stood at the centre of the “rag” Market, one could nip through the little wynd to come out on the other side of the Barley Mow, passed the vaults and pay a visit to Ashcrofts hardware shop for nails and screws and at the back of the shop buy wood, the scent of the sawdust filling the air.
And so back to where I sat on my seat facing the empty iron structure, the clammer and the shouting the pushing and shoving of an age long passed but remembered with affection, to see the modern Warrington so different so alien. Market Street blocked off by Bon Marche and the entrance to the Mall. It was time to go home.”

{This article was first published in Warrington History Society’s Winter 2002 newsletter}

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