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Chelford Market

A Pause For Thought

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Recently, we asked long-time Chelford resident Dr Roger Roycroft to give us his views on the closure of Chelford Market. We're very grateful for his efforts, reproduced unedited below. It is indeed, a cause for "A Pause for Thought"

A Pause For Thought

Recently I had cause to think about memory: what do we recall? Indeed what can we recall, each of us from our early memories of events and places, or sights, smells or sounds that in some way cut a notch in that fragile tree of recall.

How about the Battle of Jutland? Well, no I wasn't there and anyone who was would be well over their century by now. And so what was your first memory? Talking to friends, this is a fascinating subject for all the strange triggers that lock that event into the mind and yet, sadly, leaves it to be erased eventually as we age.

Hearing the fateful news that the Chelford Agricultural Market was to close forever at the end of March stirred up once again my thoughts on what it has meant to this village of ours from its very beginnings in, what was it — how long ago?

At the beginning of the 20th century Chelford was thriving with a fast railway service going north and south and road transport joining Macclesfield and Knutsford thanks to the coaching inn, The Dixon Arms, with it ample stabling facilities. The station already had docking for livestock and milk churns as well as Carriage turntables for the gentry. The milk was delivered by cart twice daily as is evident from the state of the road surfaces in early photographs. Given that hub of activity known across the farming world it was entirely reasonable for like minded men to set up an agricultural market on the original half-acre plot rented from Sir George Dixon — as they did in 1910.

The Chelford Cattle Market Company was organised and defined with the hope that the enterprise would prosper to the benefit of farmers from near and far, the village generally and, naturally, the fortunes of the 45 shareholders. The market opened in 1911 with fortnightly sales on a Monday under the chairmanship of Thomas Wilson with John E Braggins as managing director. Mr Frank Marshall joined the company in 1917.

Outbreaks of foot and mouth disease between 1922 and 1924 had a very serious effect upon the market which was repeatedly closed. Subsequently, though, the market began to expand with the Limited Company buying the market site in1926.

Whilst the market continued to grow in size it was not until after yet another outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease in 1978, when the market was closed for 11 weeks, that its full potential was realised. Being the first market to reopen after the outbreak it adsorbed the vast amount of stock that had been held on farms awaiting the end of the restrictions. Subsequently other sales were introduced until finally the site covered ten acres and eventually, being unable to expand further, the decision was reached to sell the site for yet another housing development.

It is somewhat ironic that our small Cheshire village, which founded and fostered such a success story of farming enterprise, should have seen it closed by those responding to a housing development that offers little to the farming world. The market was not just somewhere to buy and sell produce, it was also, and very importantly, a meeting point for farmers and their families to meet and socialise; and not just the active farmers but the many who have retired whose social life has now been cut short .

Over the years many incomers to new housing in the village have complained, often bitterly, about the presence of the Market without realising, it would seem, just how important it has been for so many years — indeed for more than any of us can recall from our own memories.
Not many will bemoan the loss of the Stobarts haulage site though I, for one, do regret the loss of the Cheshire Gentlemans' Cricket Ground that came before it. That at least has its name perpetuated in the name of the housing development and I sincerely hope that the existence and positive history of Chelford market will be recorded for our coming generations.

A suitable bovine statue would seem to be appropriate. Perhaps one carved from wood like our local King Canute on the road to Knutsford.

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