Barnstaple’s pannier market must be one of the most famous buildings in the town. It was designed by R D Gould and completed by 1855, part of a development that included Butcher’s Row, which runs parallel to the market.
Before this purpose built covered area, traders would line one side of the High Street, between Cross Street and Lower Boutport Street, with their panniers of produce.
People still remember the pannier market as a place where only farmers and smallholders would bring their excess produce and sell it from tables lined up through the building. Some of the older traders can remember their parents making butter the day before, by stirring up a dish of cream by hand. It was a good way to use up excess milk and was always popular in the market, along with the cream itself.
Generations of farming families came to the Friday market, and a few still do, like Francis Hancock, who follows in the footsteps of his parents and grandparents.
“It would be general farm produce with one or two nursery stalls,” he says. “But farming has changed over the last 50 years and people tend to specialise more now.”
Whereas before people were growing a variety of crops and would bring in whatever they had an excess of, these days you’re more likely to find specialist growers, from meat producers to cheese makers. Different culinary tastes and access to ingredients from around the world have seen traders who specialise in Mediterranean foods and spices alongside larger scale greengrocers.
This scene was taken from the end next to the Queen’s Theatre. More often photographers would shoot pictures from the other end of the market, looking down on the stalls from a window of the Guildhall. You can even spot the broken pane of glass where the camera could get a clear view.
As well as the eggs and cheese, the photo shows lines of clothing on sale. The market has changed over the years and, along with food items you’ll find clothing, books, DVDs and handbags. How different is the scene today? Would you still be able to spot a set of scales like the one in this photo?