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Historically the Market Place has always been at the heart of our Black Country towns

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 28, 2014

By John Workman

  • The hustle and bustle of Walsall Market in days gone by

  • A 19th century depiction of Dudley Market on canvas by Louise Rayner

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THROUGHOUT history local towns have relied upon several institutions to mould their individual character; the church as its sanctuary; the 'local' for its sport and social interaction; and the market for its commerce, unique banter and as an attraction to those living further afield.

In the modern world these three institutions have become increasingly threatened by a change in our habits. Congregations at churches and chapels have dropped, causing the closure and demolition of many; the friendly local, the pub that many thought to be indestructible, has been marginalised, again because of a change in social habits; and the characterful market that used to burst at the seams with all kinds of folk on market day, when many a deal was struck and goods bought and sold amid an air of local theatre, is sadly on the wane, all examples of the imagery of a typical Black Country town that seem to have gone forever.

The two pictures featured show a bustling Walsall Market with a view that leads towards the medieval church of St. Matthew's, about 100 years ago, and an early 19th century painting by Louise Rayner of Dudley Market Place. Ben Boucher was a Dudley poet who livedv in the 19th century and here are a few extracts from a poem he wrote in 1827.

"At Dudley Market, now I tell, most kind of articles they sell. The women take the greatest care to buy up crocks and earthenware, milk pans and collier's tots, coloured cups and chamber pots ... There's butter, bacon, cheese and eggs, sold by old Giles with crooked legs."

In its entirety the poem has a host of wonderfully colourful descriptions of what was sold and the characters who came to market, a far cry from the sterile and impersonal supermarkets where the majority of us buy our groceries and household items today.

On Wednesday April 30 the Black Country Memories Club based in Bilston will be attempting to roll back the years and present a couple of hours of pure nostalgia, reminding visitors of the markets we used to take for granted, but which are now either history or under threat. Bilston Town Hall will host the meeting which begins at 12 noon and all are invited to attend.

For any stories regarding Black Country markets email jworkman@blackcountrybugle.co.uk. or ring Bugle House 01384 567678.

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