Market memories

Photo:Upper Gardner Street Market in the 1960s

Upper Gardner Street Market in the 1960s

Stall holders in Upper Gardner Street Market recall the market years ago

By Paley O'Connor, North Laine resident

Recently I got talking to some of the Upper Gardner Street Market traders about their memories of the Market years ago. Here is what some of them told me:

  • As Harry Cowley once said, you could walk in one end a tramp and come out the other a gentleman.
  • Upper Gardner Street Market used to be much bigger. It included a covered area in what is now Brighton Antiques Wholesalers, which went through to Diplock's Yard running between the Market and Queens Gardens. All the pitches were taken, some by outsiders but many by the tenants who lived in the street. One of the lock-ups was used to keep all the stalls in during the week.
  • There was a winkle stall at either end, one run by Mar Kelly and the other by the Mac family, known as Cock-a-Mac. In the middle there was also a wet fish shop. The whole family lived upstairs and sold fish downstairs.
  • Outside the Heart & Hand was Ernie Winton, who sold only bananas - "stacks and stacks of  'em all day long". Then there was Mr Baker, who sold cabin trunks and theatre props. Mrs Morgan, who lived in a basement in the old stables, sold a jug of tea for sixpence and a bread roll for a penny. Gordon Fowler had a crockery stall. "He'd never use a table and always put his wares on the ground. People would ask him the price of something and if they didn't accept it and made him an offer, he'd pick it up and smash it! He didn't care. In the end people used to make an offer just to see him do it."
  • There was also an 'odd stocking stall' and what was known as the 'pot luck stall'. It sold only tins, often dented and always unlabeled.  "You never knew what you were getting - could be peaches or dog food!"  The council eventually refused to give him a licence, which resulted in uproar from his regulars.
  • Keith Wilcocks told me: "Many years ago you arrived at 5 30am. One day, when by 8am I hadn't taken a penny, I asked the stallholder next to me if he could lend me a couple of pounds to buy a sandwich. 'Sure', he said, pulling out a wad of notes 16 inches thick. 'Stone the crows', I said, 'how much have you got there?' 'I dunno' was the answer ,'about 8 or 9 grand!'.  I asked him if he normally carried that amount around with him. ' 'corse I do' was the reply, 'I might want to buy something...'.
  • Jim, who sells old cameras, toys and instruments , inherited his stall from his father in the 1960's. "We had a stack of 3 big saucepans and turned round to find they had disappeared." He told me he'd once been sold a camera by someone who'd stolen it from a stall further down the street!
  • John Magee, who is 83, has been doing the Market since his school days.  He has seen just about everything over the years and told me this story: "We once sold a huge old oak wardrobe to a couple who wanted it for a house they were moving into in Devonshire Place. When the Market closed we delivered it only to find out that it was so big it got stuck in the hallway. Couldn't go in, couldn't go out. Eventually they had to have it cut up and reassembled upstairs. I wonder if it's still there..."

Happily the Market is still there, with all its history and characters and bargains. Let's hope it continues for many years to come....

[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', no.188, Sept/Oct 2007]

We would love to hear from anyone else who has memories of the Market years ago, whether as a trader or a shopper. Add your memories below...

This page was added on 06/03/2008.

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