Page 17 - MarketTimesOctober2019
P. 17

Trading as usual in Barnard Castle
Barnard Castle’s traditional high street market has continued much the same since the town council took over its running in 2016 — and that suits everyone. Nicola Gould visits a market in rural Teesdale where harmony reigns
   There are no trailblazing plans in the pipeline to transform the unassum- ing market in the tourist hotspot of Barnard Castle in County Durham.
Michael King, the clerk of the town council who manages the market himself, simply wants to keep the rent low — at £10 for a standard pitch it is an absolute bargain — and support the traders as much as possible.
And that simple resolve has done more than any highfaluting masterplan to keep the traders and shoppers happy and secure the future of a historic market that has stood the test of time.
“Ask anyone about Barnard Castle and they will mention the market. In many ways it defines the town,” said Michael.
It dates back to a charter granted in 1293 to Bernard de Balliol, also known as the King of Scotland, who gave the town its name and its castle, now a ruin, which stands on a high rock overlooking the Tees Gorge.
The market has remained in its traditional location in Market Place and Horse Market. In recent years it was run by a succession of councils until Durham County Council decided to lease the
running of its markets to outside operators.
Michael said that the town council jumped at the opportunity to run the market and won the tender. As well as having responsibility and the power to nurture the market, they were also aware that the alternative of a private operator could bring change and disruption.
“This market was never a big money maker,” he said. There is limited space on the sloping cobbles for a maximum of 19 stalls, he explained. But, like locals and visitors, the town council understood the value of the market and its essential role at the heart of the history and heritage of this picturesque town.
There are other attractions. The town is home to the magnificent Bowes Museum, with its famed art collection and its prize silver swan automaton. And it is a tourist destination at the gateway to Teesdale.
But it is the market that means the most to local people, Michael said.
“It is a very traditional market with many of the traders having been here for a long time. They bring their own stalls and set up on the cobbles every Wednesday and it is a warm, friendly
Town Clerk Michael King, who manages the market
 atmosphere. Everyone helps each other out.”
Michael found that out for himself when he shadowed the former market supervisor during February 2016, before the town council took over its running.
That gave him a good insight into the issues facing traders, from cars parking on the cobbles as they try to set up to the vagaries of the weather.
The former supervisor mentioned some of the things he would have done “if he had a free hand”, and Michael realised that the town council did have a free hand.
Basically, though, not much has changed. “We adopted some rules and regulations, but with a market like this you have to be pragmatic,” Michael said.
In the summer the market is
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