Cost of living crunch puts the squeeze on Walton Street market - but traders are staying cheerful

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On a bitterly cold January morning business is far from brisk at Hull’s Walton Street market.

Both traders and shoppers are thinly spaced out across the vast fairground site. With the cost of living really starting to bite, purse strings are being kept tight.

At one of the busiest stalls, a woman is handing out thin blue plastic carrier bags. “Fill a bag with what you can for £1,” she cries. There are plenty of takers.

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Lynsey Mawer has seen good and bad times at the twice-weekly market. For 19 years, she has been selling breadcakes, scones, teacakes and sausage rolls, sourced from her father’s bakery, Breadcakes Galore, in Hessle Road.

“I’m the longest-established stall here now,” she says. “It used to be really busy but these days I’m probably selling around a quarter of what I did when I first started.”

She added: “My Dad sometimes asks me why I bother, but I can’t let my customers down. A lot of them rely on me to be here and many of them still walk to the market. It wouldn’t be fair on them if I wasn’t here for them.”

Along with her partner Darren Clarkson, she’s been up since 2.30am to deliver fresh products from the family bakery to shops, cafes and burger vans across the city. By 7.30am, they’re unloading the van at Walton Street.

“I love it, but it’s not what it used to be. You just have to keep going,” she says.

Hull’s first recorded weekly outdoor market was held in 1279 when the monks of Meaux Abbey granted permission for one to be held on Thursday on land they owned in what was then known as Wyke. By 1293, two weekly markets on Tuesdays and Fridays were established. They remained traditional market days until the early 19th century when Saturdays were added to the weekly calendar.

Over the centuries, open markets were held in different parts of what are now the Old Town and the Fruit Market, sometimes moving indoors into purpose-built halls. Today, Market Place is a reminder of its ancient setting for the town’s main outdoor market before its eventual move into Trinity Square.

While the square still hosts occasional outdoor events, featuring specialist stalls, focus has switched to the nearby indoor Trinity Market for a 21st century take on market shopping. Footfall and a lack of demand among traders means a return to the days of an almost semi-permanent market in the square is unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Back at Walton Street, Jayne and Kev Daniel take pride in their neatly arranged double pitch stall selling all manner of pet products, ranging from food to toys. The couple also run a pet shop in Kexby, near York, but have been market regulars here for the last 15 years.

“On days like this it can be a struggle to get out of bed to come here, but thankfully we’re used to it by now,” says Jayne. “We’ve got our regular customers and they keep us going.”

They usually set up around 6am after driving down the A1079 to Hull.. Kev says the cost of living crisis is a reality for traders and shoppers alike. “It’s getting harder because a lot of people expect everything to be £1 these days.”

At the next-door stall, Graham Smith’s electrical and homeware items are priced to sell. Few are over £5.

“I’m in my first year here. I normally do the Strawberry Fields market in Bridlington during the summer, but it’s not on at the moment. I’m from Bridlington, so it’s a bit of a drive to get here, but things haven’t been too bad so far.

“People want value for their money because there’s not a lot of it about. At a market you can always find something like that.”

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