Once upon a time …
… there were many farmers and millers and wood cutters and shepherds and wheel wrights and bakers and tanners and corn growers and herdsmen and potato pickers and cider makers and all sorts of local people with jobs that simply ran in the blood, and they lived out in the hills and the valleys and the woods and forests and worked hard and looked after the land, for it was the land upon which they relied. But as you might imagine, every now and then, some people had too much meat whilst others had too many potatoes.
So local producers started to trade with one another and eventually to bring their produce to new “markets” in the town. These markets attracted people from all around and quickly became very social events as well and a perfect place to go shopping, sell home produce, exchange stories, meet friends and family, share a pint and have a good old time. All across rural England and Wales, markets provided a focal point for each local economy. They were usually near convenient existing transport systems, for example at a crossroads or close to a river ford and when local railway lines were first built, market towns were given priority to ease the transport of goods.
As traditional market towns developed, they often had a wide main street or central market square. These spaces provided room for people to set up stalls and booths on market days. Often the town erected a market cross in the centre of the town, to obtain God’s blessing on the trade. The cross was also a reminder “not to defraud by cheapening“. Some take this warning to suggest that market traders were dishonest. But others will tell that it was a warning to townsfolk not to haggle the traders so low as to discourage their returning.
A thriving tradition
Of course time passes and things change, but even though supermarkets have had a massive impact on the way we farm, distribute food and shop … still the traditional market holds a special place at the heart of sustainable community life.
Town and farmers markets today are not just a great place to get good food, they are also a ‘lifeline’ to small producers and family farms, and they can be quite a central point of a strong community even today. Research shows that town centres really do benefit from a busy local market. Most shoppers who come in for the market … from locals to holiday makers … also spend money at shops and cafes, reversing the drift ‘out of town’ to big commercial centres. Markets like ours really help to support people starting new local businesses and those expanding existing ones; there is a great atmosphere in town on market day; and of course buying local food is good for the environment as food/produce travels less far and has less throw away packaging.
The Christmas Presteigne Market will be held on the weekend of the Llanandras Fair On Saturday 7th December 9 – 1 at the Memorial Hall.