Project aims to uncover stories of town’s historic markets

A new local history project is aiming to investigate the role that Sudbury’s markets have played in the development of the town.

The ‘Markets of the Past and Present’ project is a new joint venture from Suffolk Archives and the Sudbury Ephemera Archive which will record the memories local people have of Sudbury’s markets.

Many of Suffolk’s towns have grown up around a marketplace and a thriving market can still give life and character to a town today. This is certainly the case in Sudbury, where the market has been a fixture for over 1,000 years and is still an important part of everyday life.

The project is the brainchild of Sue Tibbetts of the Sudbury Ephemera Archive, who is intrigued by the variety of the market and keen to capture people’s memories to create a permanent record.

Sue explained: “During the past 40 years there have been so many different stalls; clothes, hosiery, household linen, lampshades, books, second hand items and antiques, carpets, cosmetics, meat, vegetables, cut-flowers as well as plants, health foods, fish, cheese, pet supplies, and charity stalls for local organisations selling cakes and bric-a-brac – it is really fascinating to see such a range.”

The project’s volunteer team are working to gather memories of Sudbury’s markets over time, including the cattle and dead stock markets and the Corn Exchange, as well as the experiences of both shoppers and traders. Once collected, these stories will be collated in a creative way to help share with the public more widely.

The project is also exploring how Sudbury’s markets and auctions drew people to other facilities in the town, such as the pubs. Sue recalls how “visitors to the deadstock and livestock market had a habit of frequenting local hostelries on Thursday afternoons, The Black Boy and the Volunteer. It depended on a person’s station in life which one they went to!”

Hannah Salisbury, Suffolk Archives Community Learning Officer for West Suffolk, said: “It has been fantastic to get to know the individuals involved in the Sudbury Ephemera Archive; there is such a wealth of local knowledge here and it is wonderful that we can work together to try and share this knowledge further, so we know it will be preserved for future audiences too.”

Do you remember?

  • The Banana King stall of the 1970s and 1980s. The stall sold only bananas, which were priced according to size and ripeness.
  • The kindly Freddy Brown, who would help to clear up the market at the end of the day’s trading. When he found discarded produce he would look for people to pass it onto for free.
  • Jim, a stallholder near St Peter’s Church, who sold tins of food with no label, and could be tinned fruit or vegetables, or sometimes cat food. He also sold toys that were affordable for children with pocket-money.

Whether you are, or were, a shopper or a stallholder, we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch by emailing sharing.suffolks.stories@suffolk.gov.uk or you can complete an online survey at http://tiny.cc/sudbury

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