IN his introduction to this fascinating book, John Grundy writes that when the Newcastle covered market first opened in 1835 it “must have seemed like a revolution – hundreds of shops open all day and all week… choice and variety, and all under the cover of an elegant and sophisticated classical building.
“It was the largest covered market in the country and a clear sign that Newcastle was the place to be, an emerging regional capital, go-getting and exciting.” Now a Grade I listed building, the market employs 800 people and attracts 200,000 shoppers every week.
The People’s History section of the book – recalling memories of many men and women who worked there and historic photographs – reveals that many businesses have a long history of involvement in the market. Ice cream makers Mark Toney opened their first stall there in 1907, butchers John Eden and Sons opened for business in 1925, Murrays the jeweller’s tenancy dates back to 1901, and Ken Robinson’s family pet store business started in 1929.
Pre-dating all of these traders is the original Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar, which opened on April 11, 1895. The Grainger Market stall is the last of the original Penny Bazaars and, not surprisingly, it is also the company’s smallest outlet.
Another market institution is the corporation weigh house. Used originally by traders to weigh produce – including deer carcasses – the original metal scale recorded a maximum weight of 24 stones. It’s perhaps a sign of the times that the modern electronic scale used today goes up to more than 31 stones.
Among many of the current stallholders who have contributed to the book are Paul Nicholson of Fantastic Toys; Keith Liddell, joint owner of Finlay’s butchers since 1988; Lisa Sample, owner of Matthews’ cheese shop; and Stuart Lee Archer of Pumphrey’s Coffee. A Newcastle business which has been importing fine coffee since 1750, Pumphrey’s opened a coffee centre and brewing emporium in the Grainger Arcade in 1998 which sells more than 40 different freshly roasted coffees.