BEHIND THE HEADLINES: A historic look at Chichester’s market

Do you think the traders' market should move? Join the debate on our Facebook page
Do you think the traders' market should move? Join the debate on our Facebook page

IT HAS been claimed Chichester faces losing a piece of its history if urgent action is not taken.

Traders at the city’s Wednesday and Saturday market in the Cattle Market car park say if they are not allowed to move into the city centre then the market could vanish, thanks to ever-decreasing footfall.

Market bosses have made a desperate appeal to council leaders to be allowed to move into the city, where it is felt the market can benefit from greater footfall and more trade.

It potentially signals the end of an era, but it is perhaps not as radical as it seems.

Throughout the centuries, Chichester has had a strong reputation for its markets.

“The tradition goes right back to medieval times,” said Chichester historian Alan Green, adding there is a precedent for a market in the city centre.

A postcard of the Cattle Market, postmarked 1911, looking towards Eastgate Square

A postcard of the Cattle Market, postmarked 1911, looking towards Eastgate Square

“We had the market traders – that’s why Bishop Storey gave the Market Cross in 1501 but of course you couldn’t get very many under there.

“You had to set up in the street and hope it didn’t rain.”

Mr Green published a book on 900 years of markets in Chichester in 2011, which details how the markets have evolved over time.

It could be that this is just the next step in the markets’ evolution.

A Victorian view of hte beast market in East Street, with the 1832 Corn Exchange dominating the view

A Victorian view of hte beast market in East Street, with the 1832 Corn Exchange dominating the view

A lifelong Chichester resident, Mr Green said there was not a national decline in markets and it was hard to see why the city’s market was failing, especially as he believes it still fills a very important niche.

“Because shopping in Chichester is pretty poor really,” he said.

“There’s lots of girly shops and building societies and charity shops but there’s no-where you can buy fresh fish.

“We live on the coast and the nearest fishmonger is in Emsworth.

“That’s the trouble with Chichester and the market does fill some of those gaps.

“Could it return to the streets? It would have historic precedent going back to medieval times.”

The Cattle Market has a long history and has been a source of income to various groups over the years.

Chichester’s city streets have been home to a farmers’ market twice a month since 1998 and city centre groups have voiced concern that the current market moving into the city is not a good idea.

However, Mr Green said similar concerns were raised when the now-established farmers’ market was first considered for the city centre.

“I remember when the farmers’ market went into Chichester there was a lot of argument about it,” he said.

“I always thought at the time – well it’s going to bring people into the city.

“It doesn’t seem to have affected anybody and it always looked very nice.”

UPDATE:

Tony Bailey runs a fish stall on the Saturday market in the Cattle Market car park. Look out for an interview with him soon on the market situation.

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