How the spirit of independent trade thrives at weekly market
PUBLISHED: 11:38 11 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:44 11 September 2018
It’s a crisp, clear morning as Iain Jagger sets out shrubs and blooming flowers at Cromer’s weekly market.
As his patch of potted greenery springs up around him in a corner of the town’s Meadows car park, neighbouring stalls open for the day, ready to sell everything from takeaway coffee to magnetic bracelets.
Iain has been coming to Cromer for 26 of his past 46 years as a market trader, and last year his son Karl took over running their Norfolk Plants stall. He says the camaraderie with other stall holders in places like Cromer was part of what kept him coming back.
“I retired last year, but I hated it,” he says. “I still love the market - it’s my life. It’s like a family, really. I have made a lot of friends.
Cromer’s Friday market dates back to 1285 when King Edward - Longshanks - gave the town permission to hold one.
These days it normally attracts around 10 stalls, but Iain can remember when it was a much grander affair on a par with Sheringham’s bustling market.
“It was a fight to get a place back then,” he says.
“Some of it’s down to supermarkets, some of it’s down to other things.
“These days, older people tend to support the markets, and the younger people don’t. It’s sad, but we keep fighting.”
Among the market’s newest traders are Kim and John Toye, of Sustead, who have been coming since launching their new businesses venture, Gur Beck Country Foods, in November last year.
Named after a brook in their village south of Sheringham, they specialise in artisan scotch eggs made from local ingredients, as well as herbs from their own garden.
You can get traditional scotch egss but there are vegetarian, chilli, sage and onion, black pudding and even some scotch eggs made from quail eggs.
Kim says the businesses developed out of her cookery school, Kim’s Norfolk Kitchen. “We saw a gap in the market,” she says.
“We survived the whole of the first winter, so that has given us a good start, and all the other stall holders have ben really supportive.”
The Toyes also sell their wares at Aylsham, Aldborough and Stalham farmers’ markets, although Kim says those events couldn’t compare to the intimacy of a market like Cromer’s.
But like her fellow traders, Kim says she sometimes got the feeling the public, including many Cromer residents, did not even know the event took place.
“It would be nice to see it more developed,” she says.
“There are other traders out there would could really benefit from it.”
Kelly Hansford and her mum Carole Weaver sell children’s clothes and local crafts at their stall Katie C Fashions.
Kelly agrees with Kim, saying: “It’s a family market. It’s just a shame that not many people know that we’re here. We all get on really well and look after each other.”
“In summer the tourists are lovely to see. It would be really nice if it was bigger - it would come alive more. We need more people to come and start up and give it a go.”
Iain says part of the problem was that new traders were not willing to preserve, which was a shame, because market trading could build young people’s confidence and business skills like few other professions.
“Most councils will give you a month’s start, they’ll give you a gazebo and help you out,” he says.
“I’ve seen some people come in and do that for a month and give up, but it’s something you have to stick with to make a success. You have to build trust.”
Marc Wye-Harris, of Book Heaven, has been coming to Cromer’s market for seven years, selling everything from Peppa Pig to James Patterson.
He also goes to Sheringham, Fakehman and Hunstanton markets, but says Cromer’s offered something a bit different.
He says: “It’s a smaller market, but it’s friendly. People have more time to browse.
“It’s a nice location, away from the traffic. I try to have something for everybody in the range.”
n Cromer’s Friday market runs weekly, starting at 8.30am and running until 3pm or 4pm.
The market is administered by North Norfolk District Council, who offer a 25pc discount on the pitch price for new traders, and they can also rent out gazebos and tables.
The weekly pitch price for ‘casual traders’ is £19 from April to June and October to December, £28 from July to September and £15 from January to March.
For more information, call the council’s market team on 01263 516007 or 01263 516277 or visit www.north-norfolk.gov.uk