The market developed from the ancient Whitwick market which was given its Charter in 1288, but had become obsolete.
It was revived in 1838 with the sinking of the local pits in anticipation of improved trade from a growing community. However the growth was mainly in other parts of the new settlement and as Coalville market grew Whitwick market declined.
The first market in Coalville was installed prior to 1850 in the area of “Oliver’s Crossing” gates on what was then Hugglescote Lane but, after the death of William Stenson, housing was built fronting land to the south of Hotel and High Streets and east of Hugglescote Lane.
The market was therefore moved to the site of a Tuesday cattle market behind the Red House pub and near to the Station (The Old Market). But in the 1870s, as the new town developed, a “New Market” for both cattle and commodity sales was installed in Snibston parish on land enclosing Marlborough Square, Belvoir Road and Jackson Street.
Further development of this site resulted in the New Market’s demise, the cattle market moving to the south west of Jackson St. (The New Smithfield Market) and the main market moving back to the Old Market site, which gained an additional area in Swannington Parish between Ashby Road and Mantle Lane, leased from Wyggeston Hospital Trustees.
By 1909, the local press were critical of this site – “The old wooden buildings in Coalville market which have been an eyesore for years have been sold at auction and raised 31 shillings. Wyggeston Hospital Trustees are putting up new temporary buildings which look a little better – all that can be said is that it is in the centre of town”.
People attended the market from miles around, even from Leicester and the Derbyshire borders by either railway or horse transport, and later by motor transport. Since workers were paid on Friday evenings the main business was carried out between 5 and 9.30pm.and was illuminated by oil flares. Open stalls were sited in the centre and overflowed along High St. almost to the Station. Later, for weather protection, corrugated iron roofs were installed, having been salvaged from casting floors at Woottons iron works.
The whole area was tidied up when the Memorial clock tower was built in 1925.
My colleague John College reports a wonderful account of those days.
Notes on Coalville Market. by John College
The market expanded before the 1st. World War with stalls being set up in front of all the property from the Red House to the Fountain Inn, adjoining the Station property. I remember being told that 1 penny bought you 2 bananas, 4 apples or 4 oranges before 1914.
As most workers were not paid until Friday evening, most of the market business was done between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
In the 1920 s and 30s Coalville market was well patronised and Bass Brewery, who owned the Red House side market, had a “dutch barn” type of covered stall area built in 1924.
This was a permanent market and was often opened on other weekdays. The pub landlord rented the market from the Brewery, for a fixed annual rent, and let out the stalls to the traders and paid for all the cleaning and maintenance and provision of electric lighting out of these rents. One stall here sold the cheapest wallpaper in town at 51/2 pence for a 10 yard roll.
As times were bad and wages low, Mr. Nelson, the wholesaler, told me that only “class 2 or 3” produce could be sold in this area as price was the governing factor. All produce was only available in season, especially tomatoes, which could only be sold if they were large and over ripe. The house wife only wanted them for the “fry-ups” with cheap fatty bacon the miners enjoyed after work.
The favourite tomato variety was Potentate, fist like in appearance and three usually weighing at least 2 lbs. These usually sold for 2 pence each, although at night the price often dropped to 1pence each or less since they would not keep. I remember being told that the housewives living in the centre of Coalville often took their basins to the pub with them and, when they came out at 10 p.m., went to the market for a 1 penny worth of tomatoes as the stall holder packed up ……. the basin was usually filled up with squashy pulp.
The other principal items sold by green grocers were large onions, used in “fryups” or with meat of sausages and including “Pot herbs” (usually 1 carrot, 1 onion and a small turnip or parsnip) which cost 1 penny altogether. They were used to make a large pot of broth, together with bones or scrag-end which the butcher sold for another 1 penny. For yet another penny, the butcher would supply you with either dripping or a parcel of fatty off-cuts, for rendering down on the hob. This provided both fat for the fry-ups and “scratchings” to be eaten by the children, with thick lumps of bread.
Another eagerly sought after item was “bacon bits”, off cuts and ends of the sides of bacon that had to be removed before the machine could start cutting slices. The managers of the multiple stores in Coalville, during the worst times, used to limit the sale of these to 3 pence worth for each customer. Some also added a pie, a pasty or sausages last thing at night if they would be unfit for sale next morning. I have been told that Bloor’s sold surplus items off on Friday evenings in the same way.
Mr Stanley, the Whitwick fish monger, had a stall in the market and on April 19 1926 it was reported that he was fined for having fish on his stall that was unfit for human consumption.
Lots of litter was generated by the market and in July 1936 the council asked the owners to provide litter boxes for the stall holders and empty them and sweep the streets on Friday nights when the market closed.
Thanks to John College for permission to include this item.