The memories of Alice Edge of Whixall

Recorded in 2002

"For us as a family, the best road out of Whixall was the one leading to Wem."

The lady who told me that is one well known and loved by many. She and her family made the journey to Wem every Thursday. In fact, this lady made this journey over seventy six years and never tired once of coming to set up her stall on Wem Market. She gave up coming to the Market in 1992, after first coming as a babe in her mothers arms in 1916. Mrs. Edges’ parents were John and Martha Jones,and they were Market Gardeners. Mrs. Edge was the fourth generation of gardeners to be born on the eighteen acres at Hollinswood in Whixall. Those acres produced potatoes, cauliflower’s, cabbages, sprouts, peas and beans in profusion. Then in summer came all the salads. Long days and hard work ensured a reliable crop ready for harvest every week to take to the market. Not only did the Jones sell produce in Wem Market, but at Shrewsbury on Saturday and wholesale to all the pubs and shops locally.

Mrs. Edge has vivid memories of coming in to Wem Market, especially in the Twenties and Thirties when Wem was a hive of activity.

"Thursday started early, the wagon would mainly have been ready with all manner of seasonal vegetables boxed, basketed and sacked up. The horse was to get ready, then we would be off to Wem. I never failed to look forward to a day in the market. As we drove along villagers would meet us at their gates passing up baskets of flowers, mushrooms or eggs which my mother would sell for them as pin money.

We would come out at Creamore Mill, by then you could tell you were coming in to Wem by the smells in the air. I just loved the smell of the Brewery and a delicious smell of baked bread would meet you from the bake houses. The sound of the nine o’clock Brewery hooter was the start of our day in Wem.
A sight that I always found disturbing were the tramps setting out from the Workhouse, they would be setting off up to Whitchurch Workhouse for their next night's lodgings.


The old Market Hall,
now the Church Hall.
When we arrived at the market the Toll Man Dickie Maddox was paid and the business of unloading and setting up stall began. Wem Market was quite primitive with live chickens and rabbits for sale. There were the ‘egglers’ going around buying up the eggs from farmers' wives, and women with huge baskets on either arm, arriving to set up a table to sell their produce. The middle of the market was given over to women selling home grown and baked produce. Their tables were covered with starched white cloths giving a strong centre piece to the market. There were sweet stalls, hardware and fruits. You could buy fine china, from the china men coming across from Staffordshire. They would entertain us all throwing tea services up and down their arms. We seemed to know every one and it was so noisy and bustling as the morning went on. In the Thirties we progressed to a motor to carry us into Wem, a big Morris with a trailer. The market was as busy as ever. Mr. Yewdall by then was a popular stall holder. He came each week from Manchester and had a number of lads helping him. He not only sold anything and every thing but he bought up live hens and his lads would be killing and plucking them through out the day. While the market was in progress the Corn Exchange would be busy with Farmers meeting to discuss prices. This room got very smokey. Then upstairs as often as not there would be a Rummage Sale taking place. The queues that formed if a Rummage Sale was on had to be seen to be believed. They would be all the way up the steps and in to the street. You just can’t imagine how many people must have been in the Old Town Hall building some Thursday mornings.19:04 22/05/2013 At lunch time the Public Houses would do a roaring trade. The first Thursday after Christmas was ‘The Gawby Fair.’ This was a day when Farmers and Land Owners came to Hire labour for the following year. It was a bawdy affair with those getting employment going straight to the pub and celebrating."

The Jubilee Square market in 2012
(Talbot Development Centre)
A small offshoot for Mrs. Edge was selling seeds. “ I found that over the years I had become quite knowledgeable on knowing the best seed varieties for vegetables. So people would come for advice and I just ended up taking their orders. I used to send to seed merchants in Liverpool and Sleaford in Lincolnshire. Favourites were Miracle… Peas, Streamline….Kidney Beans, Borough Wonder …..Lettuce.
Our market day would end around 3.30pm and we would be back on the road to Whixall. Passing us on his way back to Manchester would be Mr. Yewdall, his men would be still plucking hens and feathers would fly everywhere."
In 1992, Mrs. Edge still came into Wem, though she said that without the old market hall the atmosphere has gone for her. She still occasionally visited the market in the Talbot Centre but couldn't get far for talking to old friends.

Alice Edge was interviewed for 'The Wemian' magazine in 2002 by Linda Etherington

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