Remembering Newport’s old market and weekly livestock sale

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If you are of a certain age, you will remember the original market in Newport on the Isle of Wight.

Every Tuesday, cows, pigs and sheep waited to be auctioned off in their pens on the site now occupied by the Morrison supermarket, and where the food aisles now are, all manner of market traders set up their stalls .

Scroll through the photo gallery above for more photos and full captions…

Stalls ranged from individual stalls to trucks with folding sides forming stages or counters.

Usually originating on the mainland, the larger stalls sold everything from bed linen to crockery, from jewelry to baked beans.

The South Street entrance to the market. Photo: Alan Stroud.

There was even a butcher’s shop, local jokes claiming some of the joints had turned up in Newmarket the day before.

In a stall, a man was selling glass cutters week after week. It effortlessly cut intricate shapes and patterns and produced tiny masterpieces in seconds.

Sometimes they were letters of the alphabet, sometimes the silhouette of a leaping salmon, executed in a dazzling series of maneuvers that put us all in danger of stitching up.

The merchants were seasoned artists. One, a scruffy middle-aged man with a designer beard before it became fashionable, only sold tights.

As he played with the crowd, flecks of white spit gathered in the corners of his mouth until an explosive syllable sent them flying into the crowd.

He was attacking a pair of tights with a nail file, shouting, “Look at these tights. They are indestructible. You can’t geddem here – I exhibit goddem. It was always the exhibition—he never specified which one in particular.

Wally Pearce, a veteran exhibitor from Cowes, sold homemade ‘TV boosters’. Simple affairs, costing pennies to produce, they consisted of nothing more than a short length of coaxial cable with a capacitor soldered to the end which, to maintain an air of mystery, was hidden under plastic tape. .

As the crowd watched, Wally plugged a ‘booster’ into a portable television and, like magic, a perfect picture appeared.

It was an impressive display which owed more to the fact that the powerful 500kW Rowridge transmitter was only two miles away rather than to Wally’s electronics – at that distance a hanger stuffed into the aerial socket would have given a good picture.

Wally made a good trade with the tour buses which swelled the crowds but back home, where the nearest transmitter might be 50 miles away, it’s a safe bet the snowy screens of Swansea and Macclesfield remained too snowy than ever.

Isle of Wight County Press: Tim Smith of Way Ridett and Market Supervisor Vernon Terrett with the winning beast from Gilten Market in 1983. Photo: Alan Stroud/County Press.Tim Smith of Way Ridett and Market Supervisor Vernon Terrett with the winning beast of the Gilten Market in 1983. Photo: Alan Stroud/County Press.

Way Ridett and Pittis held cattle auctions at each market; they were popular with farmers and the public.

All was well until the early 1980s, when more and more Isle of Wight farmers found it more profitable to take their animals to mainland markets for auction.

Isle of Wight sales have been hit hard and both Pittis and Way Ridett have decided to end their auctions.

The 1983 annual Gilten Market was chosen to be the last regular livestock market ever held on the Isle of Wight.

The Gilten market was traditionally held every Christmas, when the horns of the animal deemed best in the market were anointed with gold paint. ‘Coast to Coast’, TVS’ local news programme, was there to record the very latest market.

Tom Glenny, Way Ridett’s auctioneer, was interviewed: “It’s about economics,” he told viewers. “Flow in an average Tuesday market has become so low that it is not economical to maintain it. The problem is that there is not enough stock.

“There are expenses to run a market and if there are only 20 or 30 calves, it does not cover the running costs. This is because he was not supported by the big breeders.

Colin Fairweather and I not only photographed the last market, but we also made an audio recording and we did our own interview with Tom Glenny, who told us: “I am going to auction on New Years because I have a farm sale on inventory. but I guess I will never work in the market again.

“People see it on this day of the year and it looks wonderful, but it’s the other 51 weeks of the year that matter – and they’re a dead loss.”

Moments later, he held the last livestock auction ever held on the island… “Now we come to the important thing. There he is, the beast of Gilten Market, owned by farmer Alan Aylett. Congratulate him on a nice beef.

“Put him in. What am I offering for him?…Who wants him? 120 I’m an offer…125…130…135…138 if you like him.” One minute it was all over… “Selling at 172 pence a kilo… to Mr. Bartlett.”

The crowd, knowing they had just witnessed the end of an era, burst into spontaneous applause and as the cheers died down so did the Newport market.

In the new year the traders’ stalls moved to a site at the junction of South Street and Furrlongs, now home to Cineworld and fast food outlets, but the new market was now only a shadow of himself.

Shopping habits had changed and its heyday had passed. It was the beginning of the end and the market slowly faded away.

Love reading stories about the Isle of Wight from a bygone era? Click here to visit our Looking Back section for more interesting stories.

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