My memories of Sneinton Market go back as far as I can remember. My grandmother was Alice Maud Hilary, but she was better known as Maud – she was a stallholder, selling second hand clothes. She used to clear houses in West Bridgford and sell the bits and bobs on her stall. I remember as a very small child sitting on a pram laden with woollen clothes that she used to take down to Trickett’s for weighing in. Selina Trickett was Maud’s sister, Burton as she was then – my grandmother always made sure she got good rates.
When I was a child I can remember in about 1945 going down to the market with me mother on a Saturday. There weren’t a lot of money about in them days. Dad used to work as a coal merchant for about four pounds a week, and we had a big family. We’d go round the stalls and mum would buy old clothes and do ’em up. We used to call and see me Aunt, Lizzy Burdett, who had a fruit stall. She always gave us a few apples and pears – they weren’t the good ones like, they were on the way out, but to children then it were paradise.
I’ll always remember the noise – there weren’t a lot of traffic in those days, so you’d walk down Carlton Road and when you got to the bottom where the market was there was all these people. It was a bit like Goose Fair – interesting, but a bit frightening when you’re small.
The first time I came to Sneinton Market I’d be about five or six. It was dead busy, coming along with my mum, dad and me brother, and you got clouted round the head by everybody’s shopping bag – bang, bang, bang. But you’d get a pair of shoes, get some fruit, get this, get that. The older women twatted you round the head with their bags because they were too busy talking to notice you. They didn’t mean to do it.
An early memory of the market was in 1947 – it was a bad winter, Midland Station got flooded. I used to down to the market to buy material – the place was chaotic. There was a lot of blackout material, a lot of brown drill material and a lot of lace edging. I made curtains out of the lace edging – you couldn’t get nice things in those days, they were all sent abroad to pay for the war. I made aprons out of the blackout material because they weren’t on coupons. I had my hand snatched off – my stuff was gone before I could say Jack Robinson. The lace edging that I’d got left over I took to Jessops – they bought it by the yard, but I’d bought it by weight so I made a good profit on it.
I used to go round Sneinton Market, meet me mum, walk up Hockley with the baby in the pram, and then get on the bus to come back. Hockley was hectic then. I can remember going into Woolworths, it was all pick ’n mix tuffys. My eldest sister was picking them and eating them – she thought you could do that without paying!
I’m now seventy-one – my first memory of the market would be sixty years ago when I was dragged down there by my mother. Everything was wrapped in newspaper and it was so very busy. I didn’t particularly like it, but fifteen years later I was actually standing on it! I trained as an accountant in the textile trade. I used to get people coming in, paying their accounts in cash. Traders took intense delight in bringing in the smallest change – £2,000 in pound notes. I thought to myself, “I’m sitting on the wrong side of this desk here.”
My first memory of the market was looking up and seeing all these people from the waist upwards – there was lots of arms and lots of adults. It was chaos, absolute chaos – people shouting and screaming and it was always hot. Children were ignored – you’d be elbowed, hit with bags, run over with trolleys. You weren’t significant on Sneinton Market unless you were loud, bold and brash. If you could shout, you would get the best bargains. My nana used to teach me how to elbow people out of the way discreetly and get the bargain. It was quite a scary place when I first used to go. It was frightening because you had to haggle and that meant you had to interact with people and have a voice and be really strong. As I got older I got more embarrassed because my nana, Hilda Tetley, was the loudest. She really stood out visually as she had bright ginger hair, a huge beehive and lots of sovereigns. She was very well known in Sneinton and she would haggle the stall owners. She would get big bags of meat for five, ten pounds – steak, sausages – we were true carnivores, my family.
As a child I’d frequently get lost on the market, but we had a specific tree that we used wait under for the adults to find us. Nobody knows this except my nana, but once when I was standing under the tree I was tying my hair back – this wispy afro fringe that would blow in the wind – and I could see something strange in my fringe. It turned out that a bird had pooed all over it, but I only found this out when my nana came to get me because I daren’t move from the spot under the tree and go to see what it was!