Page 42 - MarketTimesOctober2019
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      The rise and rise of Wells Market
    With its perfect location in the heart of picturesque Wells and an eclectic mix of fine food and high quality craft and gift stalls, Wells Market is a magnet for shoppers and the envy of its neighbours. But it wasn’t always so.
Nicola Gould reports on an impressive transformation
Wells may be England’s smallest city after the City of London, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in attractiveness and attractions.
Steeped in history and nestling amid the beautiful Mendip Hills, it is famous for its iconic cathedral, the moated Bishop’s Palace, its “wells” or springs that give the city its name and its ancient market, a flagship event dating from a charter granted in 1201 that brings the city to life every Wednesday and Saturday.
Now a source of great pride and a showcase for the best produce, food and quality products that Somerset has to offer, the market hasn’t always set such high standards.
Rose Walker, a markets officer with
Mendip District Council which now runs the market, said that 20 years ago it was on its last legs.
Janet Jackson, who sells hats, and Pearl Davis, who runs a cheese deli, say it wasn’t so much down-and-out as down- market.
Pearl, who has been trading back-to-back with Janet for the past 23 years, said: “There were quite a number of stalls selling cheap goods, alongside the quality traders.”
Janet knows Wells market better than anyone, having started selling underwear in 1978 when traders had to put up their own tables and the rent was 50 pence.
“It has always been a busy market and very friendly,” she said. “But these days
every stall is very professional and the lines are high quality.”
And the person they most credit with the transformation is the retired market manager Stuart Beaton, who managed it for many years, first for a private operator and then for the council.
The current market manager, Graham Jeffery, is following in Stuart’s footsteps.
Suzanne Sharpe, who is relatively new to her role as the council’s markets and events manager, said the council had instigated a drive to improve the market, with the emphasis on quality and fine food.
A private operator used to run a farmers’ market on Wednesdays, with the general market setting up stall on the ancient cobbled market place, and the farmers’

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