Mrs. Salmon remembers the old market

Interviewer: [00:00:01] We may move on now from fairs to the market, could you describe the market to us?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:00:07] Oh the old Chester market was a dream. It was a very tall structure. You would go in and on all the main gateways were the butcher shops and the centre on a Saturday belonged to the country people. They were not there through the week and there were steps, you could go in the market at all times, there were set stalls all around and the fish market was at the bottom. That was a separate market.

Interviewer: [00:00:38] Now you say the country people were only there on a Saturday. What sort of produce would they bring?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:00:45] They would come in early with their horses and traps onto the market square and there would be three double rows of trestle tables down the centre of the old market. They would cover them with white tablecloths, starched, beautiful, and they would bring in big round baskets of eggs, cheese. They would make big dishes of black puddings. There’d be brawn homemade brawn, jam. They’d bring in rabbits and they would lay their chickens out, dressed chickens all floured with parsley stuck in the legs, all in lines on their, on their trestle tables. There’d be ducks, erm, and then at one end they’d have all their vegetables and they would bring all their flowers in. It was a very, very colourful, especially in September with all the Michaelmas daisies and dahlias. It looked beautiful and they would all wear starched pinnies and aprons.

Interviewer: [00:01:56] Were there any restrictions on the times that the market was open?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:00] Yes. The old market, there was a Superintendent that used to wear a sort of navy blue uniform and a peaked cap and at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, he would ring the starting bell and they would start selling and they would sell all the way through until nine o’clock at night on a Saturday. All shops on a Saturday closed at nine o’clock. You could go into Chester after tea on a Saturday and buy everything, groceries, everything, up till nine o’clock at night.

Interviewer: [00:02:34] Now, at this time, when everything had to close, what did they do with all the produce that wasn’t sold?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:02:41] Well, where the market was concerned, in the early twenties, people had no refrigerators. Neither did the butcher shops have refrigerators, or the fish market. Now, the country people used to start selling off their things much cheaper from eight o’clock, the last hour, things that wasn’t going to keep or take back got sold off cheaper. Now, the butcher shops, if they hadn’t got refrigerators, the butcher’s boys, or if they had a lorry or at that time or horse and trap, they would have to take their meat in big baskets down to Queen Street, to the cold storage, to be stored till Monday. But in those days, the butcher shops didn’t open on the Monday because they hadn’t got fresh meat till Tuesday. Now the fish market, unless like the prime salmon and the prime fish sometimes would be bought by the local hotels. But a lot of the fish that wouldn’t keep, had to be sold off. And they used to have a fish auction, as they called it, from eight o’clock till nine. It wasn’t like a main auction. They used to wrap all the fish up in bundles, starting at sixpence, a shilling and one and six, and you would go and buy one of these bundles, getting all sorts of types of fish in. Sometimes if you were lucky, you would get fresh salmon in the one and sixpenny packets.

Interviewer: [00:04:13] Was this well known in the city?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:04:16] Fairly well known, living near to the market area, at the area I was in, what you would call the Watergate area. It was well known.

Interviewer: [00:04:27] So the market was quite busy at that time of night?

Mrs. Salmon: [00:04:29] Yes, very busy indeed.

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