Trading Histories

Nora’s Story

Edna’s weighing scales, Potty Edwards, high quality goods, great atmosphere.

Nora was born in Sheffield in 1948. She lives in Rotherham now but still comes back to Sheffield and shops in the Castle Market.

She came to the markets as a child with her mother and remembers Edna’s weighing scales:

‘I used to come into Sheffield with me Mum, we used to walk, they were back to back houses, we didn’t have a lot of money, and we used to come to Rag and Tag Market and that were a wonderful place.  Just full of atmosphere – I were only little so I can just remember the atmosphere and some of the characters. And I remembered this chair that looked like a throon and this, what seemed to be an old lady, maybe she weren’t so old when I look back, but she, I think you used to pay her a couple of pennies or whatever and it used to weigh you. And everyone used to queue up to go on it, or they used to look at it longingly if they couldn’t, if they didn’t have any money for it.’

And watching Potty Edwards:

‘He used to have this thing with pots. He used to just pile them up as he were telling you what he was going to sell you – dinner plates, tea plates, cups ‘n’ saucers – and then we all used to wait cos he used to sorta like chuck them in the air and catch them and we used to think something will break but he never broke anything. And he brought his prices down and eventually women would buy them, there used to be a few men hanging around but not many, it used to be mainly women. And you’d buy yourself a tea set or whatever off him but you could buy just a cup n’ saucer, always cups and saucers not mugs them days – only pint pots for men – I think some of them got sold as well.’

She remembers that the Rag and Tag and the Castle Market were always very busy because the quality was so good:

‘But it were just, it were so busy it were the noise, the chatter, the atmosphere, it felt as though all Sheffield were in here, particularly on busy days. There were just everything, everything that you could want, you didn’t need to go anywhere else, as I remember it when I was little, you couldn’t afford to go anywhere else! Not where I came from, people didn’t earn enough…But what I think I’d like to say about market as well is that it were good quality, just because you were working class and you were buying cheap I don’t think you were buying rubbish, you know, you might have gone for cheaper cuts of meat or cheaper fish or whatever but what you were buying was quality… to me it were heart of Sheffield. Sheffield had lovely buildings, which later on when I got a bit more money I went in. But you know, this weren’t working class in that it were awful, that we were coming to a dump to shop – you weren’t, it were, the whole area, all Castlegate, it were lovely, all the square and the post office and everything, it were lovely… it were wonderful,  it were like best place you could shop.’

And the atmosphere was much better than shopping in a supermarket:

‘But it were just that atmosphere and everything and knowing people. Stall owners knew you because you came, well sometimes we come for three times a week – so they knew you – and you had all this banter and everything. So it were shopping, it were like going into a super market now and people might be friendly with you because they’re trained to do that but they don’t know you, you could go in for years and they don’t know you but here you were known, and people quickly got to know you.’

Nora believes the traders in the fish and meat market are the most friendly people, even though she is now a vegetarian!

‘They couldn’t do enough for you. If you wanted certain fish, certain meat, or whatever, you wanted it prepared or whatever, it were done and it were in your price bracket but, like, there were no rushing, no, you know, like you didn’t matter.’