My fascination with markets is pretty well known and has been rolled out in posts in this blog on a regular basis. One of the markets that has featured has been Cardiff Market; somewhere I have been visiting for over 50 years.
During that half-century or so I have often marvelled at, and purchased from Ashtons, the fishmongers at one of the entrances. It really is a magnificent sight not only for its display and the volume of customers it attracts, but also for its sense of history and style. The photos below don’t do it justice, but give a small flavour (their website has a short video on the current business and their ethos)
Cardiff Market remains for me a fascinating and evocative place. Some of the stalls seem unchanging – both food and non-food – even though the product may have altered over time. The quality (and price) of the food remains a major attraction. New additions – spices and sweets – add variety, and the cafes, cake stalls provide a wide range and service.
Some of my first memories are of the lesser explored upper balcony, where my father took me when he bought medals and trophies for basketball competitions he ran. At that time there was also the café (Faggots and Peas) and the pet stalls. Both remain but the latter much reduced. Many of the upper stalls have declined and closed (though Kelly’s Records is going strong and worth exploring).
Visiting the upper floor again the other week I came across a display on the history of the market. It mentions the origins of the current market from 1835 (and the need for it to replace the pre-cursor markets as the City grew) and has some interesting photos and comments.
What really caught my eye though was the pieces on Ashton’s and their claimed status ina letter form 1930 of being in their place in the market from 1866 (though Ashton’s website mentions being in the market since 1890, which probably refers to the current structure). Does this make them the longest running market stall in the UK?
Their letter to the Market authorities from 1930 noted amongst other things that:
- Trade is currently much reduced (this was in the Recession)
- In such circumstances increased costs were harassing beleaguered shopkeepers (plus ca change?)
- Their rent was to be increased by 22% per week!
- Tenancy could be terminated on 7 days notice (wow).
Ashtons case as laid out in their letter (and one hopes/assumes they got relief) was that vital, long-standing, investing and employing businesses should not be penalised in such ways. The ‘deal’ does seem a little outrageous, though the circumstances seem very familiar today.
If you are in Cardiff, go to the market and spend your money there. If you want fish or poultry (and top-class it is) seek out Ashton’s.