A most uncommon market


AS if he didn’t have enough call on his funds, a few weeks ago Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £20million award to refurbish Bury Market.

Embarrassingly for Sunak, he was under the impression that he was in Burnley, 20 miles away. He named the wrong town three times in an interview with the BBC.

Well, they are both northern towns, aren’t they? What a perfect example of the lack of interest at Westminster in anywhere outside the M25.

As a long-time fan of Bury Market, I dread to think what the improvement scheme will involve. The market started as long ago as the 1440s and has been on its present site since 1971, three years after a fire destroyed the old market. On full market days there are 370 stalls indoors and out, and coach parties come from far and wide. It’s a wonderful traditional market with customers who have been going all their lives.

I went along on Friday to take some pictures before it is ‘improved’ out of all recognition. Traders told me that visitor numbers are increasing again, though not yet back to pre-lockdown levels. On the bright side, almost no one was wearing a mask.

First stop was Nosh n Brecks café for lunch (Posh and Becks – geddit?)

There are several eateries in the market but this is our favourite because of the hand-prepared chips. The staff hand-peel and cut the potatoes fresh every day (they get through about four sacks of ‘washed whites’ a week). Frozen chips don’t come remotely near the real thing.

This is our meal: meat pie, mushy peas, chips and gravy, double egg and chips and two mugs of tea, for £8.40. Tip top.

Here are the staff, left to right Kerry, Kirsten and Kelly. (We were puzzled that two of them seemed to be called Gail but the aprons were printed for another member of staff.) Like everyone who works at the market, they are delightful, friendly and funny. There are very few solemn people in a market.

Then a wander round some of the stalls – too many to take in during one visit, but here are a few snaps. (I was not pleased with the quality of some of them but much of the stock is in glass cabinets and I could not avoid reflections – cue for Hugh Jampton and others to tell me I need a proper camera.)

Several stalls offer bulk purchases of meat.

There are several stalls selling the famous Bury black puddings.

There’s a great cheese stall.

They offer samples to taste. 

On detecting a Liverpool accent among the shoppers, one of the cheese people remarked: ‘I can hear a Scouser, keep an eye on the stock.’ When the woman involved remonstrated with him, he replied: ‘Listen, love, if you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t go on a market.’

Another display that caught my eye:

We took one of these tarts home and had it for tea.

Tripe and cowheel, which you don’t see everywhere.

It’s not just food:

And probably most necessary of all:

Opening times (closed on Sundays)

Market Hall: Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm

Fish & Meat Hall: Monday to Friday (closed Tuesday afternoons) 9am to 4.30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm

Open Market: Wednesday and Friday 9am to 4.30pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm


After seeing the skein of pink-footed geese which I mentioned here and here, I thought it would be interesting to visit the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s reserve at Martin Mere, not all that far from us in Lancashire, to see if we could observe them there.

We saw many species on the lake, including whooper swan, teal, wigeon, greylag goose, pintail and of course mallard, plus lapwing and black-tailed godwit (I am never sure if it counts as ‘observing’ when the birds are drawn in by regular feeding) but not a single pink-footed goose. The masses of birds made quite a racket and here is a video of the scene.


One Reply to “A most uncommon market”

  1. Fab place Bury Market! Let’s hope the government money doesn’t mess it up, for instance by upgrading the stalls and then putting the rent up.

    Most of the towns around Manchester had a market like that until the 1980s. Stockport, Ashton and Glossop had huge markets but they have now shrunk to shadows of their former selves. I don’t know why Bury’s market didn’t follow this trend.

    Stockport market’s decline was caused by Asda and Sainsbury’s opening right next to it in the early-80s. (Sainsbury’s has now gone, it closed last year). The market place and its buildings have been much improved recently. There are now artisan and craft (i.e. expensive) stalls, as well as monthly events such as “Vintage Village” and “Foodie Friday”. These are events well worth attending, but it isn’t a real market as in the old days. Many markets have gone this way.

    Central Manchester had a thriving market place beneath the Arndale Centre in the 70s, 80s and 90s, my main memory of it is that it always stank of rotting meat! Probably because it was indoors and in a basement. This market probably replaced an earlier market from before my lifetime. Many beautiful buildings around that area were destroyed in WW2; the Arndale Market was destroyed by the IRA bomb of 1996.

    On a more cheerful note, the best way to visit Bury Market is on an East Lancashire Railways steam train. Hear the whistle blow, all aboard!

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