Plea to save town’s proud market tradition

Attleborough Market is seeing a huge decline in stall holders and shoppers.l-r George Bunning Fishmo

Attleborough Market is seeing a huge decline in stall holders and shoppers.l-r George Bunning Fishmonger, Kevin Blyth General Merchandise, Michael Greenwood Produce Stall and Terry Staff who looks after the market. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

For more than 800 years, it has been the town's bustling, beating heart.

Once a week, the centre of Attleborough became a thriving hub of commerce, alive with traders shouting out their wares and shoppers haggling.

Today, however, the market in the 'market town' is a shadow of its former self, a humble affair, made up of a small handful traders gathered in a car park.

But efforts are now under way to revive the Thursday market and ensure the future of this centuries old tradition.

The message from the market's organiser, Terry Staff, is simple: use it or lose it.

'It was only a year ago that we had 10 stalls here. Now, we're down to just four regulars,' he said.

'If we had more vendors it would bring more footfall, but part of the problem is that we're quite tucked away here.'

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The market currently opens from 7.30am to 1pm at the Queen's Square Car Park, but it has taken place at various spots over the centuries, including at Connaught Hall, Church Street and on the square itself.

Fruit and veg trader Michael Greenwood said another location change could boost the market, but the key was better publicity.

Mr Greenwood said: 'If it was more central it would be better. There's no passing trade here, and Attleborough is growing so quickly that people don't know we are here.'

Fishmonger George Bunning has been a regular market fixture for 35 years, and also trades at seven other outdoor markets across Norfolk.

He said what was happening to Attleborough reflected the fate of the county's other markets.

Mr Bunning said: 'They have all gone downhill from what they were a few years ago. In the early days, we would have queues of 30 or 40 people at a time when we had special offers on. It's nothing like that today, but we still do quite well.'

Kevin Blyth started trading 18 months ago, selling toys, and has since expanded to sell general merchandise.

He said that although increased competition from discount shops made life more difficult for markets, shoppers could still pick up bargains there they couldn't find elsewhere.

'We can do that because we don't have the same overheads,' he said.

Mr Staff said people could set up their own stall for £6, or for £10, he will set up a table for vendors to use.

He said: 'We would just like people to come and realise that there is a market here because at the end of the day, it's that or lose it. It would be so sad if it was lost.'

Anyone interested in starting a stall can call Mr Staff on 07876 171 829.

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