Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.
I can’t resist the temptation of describing 8omething of Macclesfield market. It was our nearest town and could be reached either by train or later, by bus. Most people took advantage of the greater variety of shops and usually took a trip once a week. The market was on two levels. Like most of the villages around, Macclesfield was a hilly place and most of the streets had to be reached by means of steep hills. Part of the market was on Waters Green, which was adjacent to the station and bus terminus. Here were the crockery stalls, the cheap lino or rug stalls and haberdashery, ‘all sorts’ stalls near and dear to the heart of all thrifty housewives who were looking for a bargain.
On top of the bill, reached by walking up Church Wallgate, a narrow winding little road, was the Market Square. It was bounded on one side by the imposing Parish Church and equally imposing Town Hall and on the other sides by shops and banks. During the week days it was just another thoroughfare, but Fridays and Saturdays it came alive with the farmers and stall holders who brought their produce to sell. Wooden stalls were erected and covered with tarpaulin sheets as a shelter from the rain. Vegetable stalls where Cheshire potatoes, celery, cabbage and the luscious new garden peas, along with tomatoes, carrots, their tops feathery and green, and delicious turnips and swedes were offered for sale.
Lots of farmers sold just their own dairy products. Stalls were covered with spotless white cloths and the various cheeses were displayed. No one was expected to buy cheese until a morsel, extended on the tip of a knife, had been sampled. Crumbly and delicious, cheese was a far different food than the plastic covered slabs we call cheese today. Farm butter, always embellished with the symbol of the farm, crocks of brown eggs, most of which still had tiny feathers from the hen still sticking to them. Piles of mouth-watering oatcakes and maybe some jars of home pickled onions were other sidelines. Buyers had their favourites amongst these farmers and became old friends, enquiring for each other’s health and family.
On the ground were large stone jars full of sweet smelling mint, lavender and old fashioned flowers like Sweet Williams and Pinks filling the air with a pot pouri of fragrance.
Nothing will-ever match those country markets for, besides good and wholesome food, there was the friendship and knowledge that what was offered for sale was all top quality and of the best.
I almost forgot to mention the chip shops – few then, but the popularity is the same. There was just one chip shop in Bollington then – a tiny place but oh! – those chips and fish were delicious – cooked in a range that was heated by a little coke fire underneath – standards of hygiene were very much hit or miss – but these little shops were the first of the ‘take out’ type. The chips were wrapped in newspaper with lashings of salt pepper and vinegar. You ate them as you walked along, ending up by carefully making a crease in the paper and drinking the vinegar!
© 1985 Enid Simpson