Memories of the Saturday Market Pea Stall Part 2
About 7 am each Saturday morning I would cycle from Brookland Avenue down Bancroft Lane to 34 Layton Avenue, where I would leave my bike, and collect the money for a hundredweight of coke. Then I walked down Byron street and Wood street to no.7 Westfield Lane, where Derek now lived following the death of Grandma Johnson to collect a lighted brazier in ‘the old wheelbarrow’ that Derek had lit up. I would push the lit brazier in the wheelbarrow down from the top of West Gate, past the church at the bottom of Wood street, since demolished to make way for Roundwood surgery, past the bottom of St. John’s street with Boot’s the chemist on the corner, now a school uniform shop, past the Thorpe Hancock school of dancing, sadly long gone, now an empty shop and past The Mansfield Pet Stores, opposite Thorpe Hancock, past the Abbey National Building Society, past the ‘little market’ (West Gate market), where Buxton’s fabric shop was and John Manners school clothes, Gray and Bull a surgical appliance shop, and the CO-OP decorating shop, the Granada cinema, and Linney’s staionary shop and past Woolworth’s and British Home Stores, which have all disappeared, and Mark’s and Spencer’s, which still trade, and past the bottom of Regent street with the junction of West Gate. Michael Powell recalled an amusing experience to me, sometimes, when he was passing the Mansfield Pet Stores, the sides of the wheelbarrow would be smouldering due to the draught making the brazier burn bright, and Sid the owner of the pet store would be ready with a bucket of water to wet the inside of the wheelbarrow to prevent it catching fire!!
Would we be allowed to wheel a lighted brazier through town today? Definitely NOT!!!
At this time West Gate was two-way traffic, including double deck buses and Regent street was one-way, having buses to Woodhouse and Worsop terminate on it opposite the Electric Showrooms. The pea stall consisted of two stalls, about four feet from, but parallel with the pavement ouside The Market Hotel and Dial Hotel, both serious supping pubs at the time. When I arrived at the stall, I would push a 6 foot length of 1 inch steel bar through the metal frame of the brazier, by which this time would be burning well due to the passage of air through due to the journey through town, and ask a passer-by to give me a lift out of the two wheeled wooden barrow to where it was needed at the back of the two stalls, placed between them. Sometimes it would be a council market worker, sometimes a passer-by on his way to work, and once I plucked up courage to ask ‘Bomber’ a real character, strong as an ox, loved his beer and I believe slept rough. He would help out on the markets for his beer money I assumed. I once heard a market worker ask a passing policeman where Bomber was, as he had not been seen for some time. ‘We’ve sent him on holiday for a while to Lincoln’ was the reply. I have no idea what he had been up to!! Michael Powell told me that when anyone committed suicide in the reservoir at Kings Mill, the police would get Bomber to retrieve the body. He also told me that Bomber committed suicide by hanging himself from the gasometers.
After the brazier was in place behind the pea stall, with the wooden barrow sometimes smouldering from the fire in the brazier, I would push the barrow up Market street, to the left of the Town Hall, past Bird’s the pork butchers, under the viaduct and up Albert street towards Nottingham road, passed the Nottingham Evening Post newspaper Mansfield Office, later to become Cornucopia, now an estate agents office at the top of White Hart street, with the motor cycle shop opposite, past Westby’s florists, now an empty unit, the estate agents on the right hand side including Colin Bentley and Partners (now gone) alongside the Victoria Hotel, where the Trent no.62 Notitngham bus used to turn around in the wide road and wait up outside Bainbridge’s cafe, until it was time to leave. I remember a gent’s outfitters on the corner of Brunt street and Nottingham road, I think it was Frank Hardy’s. The wheelbarrow would run away with me down Brunt street, past the Parochial Hall and the rear entrance to Lucas’s garage and into the gas works yard, opposite the Mansfield Brewery, all are long gone.
At the gas yard I would buy a hundredweight of coke, which was weighed out and tipped into my wheelbarrow, and then I would push this load up Brunt street and tip it near to the burning brazier for use during the day. It must be born in mind that I did this in rain, sun, snow and ice and gales and that the roads mentioned, with the exception of Market street, were two-way traffic with double deck buses using them.
When the coke was tipped, I would take the wheelbarrow up Exchange Row to the back of the Town Hall where the toilets are now and collect an electric water boiler, the type our mother’s used on wash day, 6 formica faced boards about 4 feet by 3 feet each, and these were then laid onto the stall cross boards to give a clean looking surface that could be wiped down and kept clean. The boiler was placed at the very end of the stall, at the end near to Fisher’s canned food stall. I would then retrace my steps up West Gate with the empty wheelbarrow, up Wood street to Thoresby street, where there was a small lock-up owned by Harvey Johnson, the coal merchant, where the ‘new’ wheelbarrow was garaged. There I would swop the ‘old’ barrow for the ‘new’ barrow. From memory the ‘new’ wheelbarrow was about 4 feet long, by about 28 inches high and about 28 inches wide. To me it was huge! I was never tall, and am now 5 feet 4 inches tall. It was state of the art with two rubber tyred wheels with needle bearings, that at the time cost an absolute fortune, but it ran as sweet as a nut, when empty!!! Then I returned to base at Layton Avenue with the ‘new’ wheelbarrow.
On my arrival there would be two large galvanised lidded pans of boiled peas ready, two white buckets of whelks, tow white buckets of cockles and two of mussels. These were loaded into the ‘new’ wheelbarrow in a particular order, pans of peas first and as many buckets as possible on the floor of the barrow, two quart stone bottles of vinegar and concentrated mint for the mint sauce. Any buckets that wouldn’t fit on the floor of the barrow were carefully placed on top of a bucket. They each had a clean white tea towel over the shellfish. The rectangular copper pan that the peas were poured into and served from, that sat on a piece of steel sheet, all went in the barrow, the serving spoons, customers spoons and all the crockery went into the copper pan to utilise every bit of space. There were vinegar shaker bottles, 6 plastic washing bowls with clear plastic lids for the shellfish and 1 enamled metal bowl for washing pots in, and finally 4 green canvas tilts, nails and hammer to stabilise everything. By this time Mrs Childs had help in the boiling of peas, her name was Connie. I never knew her surname other than she lived on Rooth street, which later became part of the old bus station, which has since been moved to it’s new site next to the railway station.
I always loaded the wheelbarrow up with it facing the way I was going to travel, turning it in the road, fully loaded, was almost impossible for me, because of the camber in the road. For me to get the barrow ready to push, I had to jump up onto the handles to use my weight to get it level on the two wheels, then push as hard as I could to get it to move. Once I was moving, I was OK. I travelled down Layton Ave., past Springfield Hotel and onto Rosemary st. turning right towards the Belle Vue/Empire traffic lights, passing Leconby’s grocers, Fred Coupe cycle shop on my left hand side (where I bought my first new bike) and past the bakers shop on my right and Mrs Smedley’s dress shop, with Lawn Mills cotton throwsters on my left. Opposite Lawn Mills were Vardy’s pet supplies, Nuttall’s hairdresser and his brother next door, Nuttall & Thompson electricians. Then past the Baptist Church, now rebuilt near the fire station, and down to the traffic lights at the Empire, where I had to stop the barrow as it was running down hill towards them. Then left when the lights turned green and down Stockwell Gate. This was two-way traffic, and invariably I had cars and buses stacking up behind me. There was nothing I could do other than be as quick as I could.
On Stockwell Gate were Bucklow & Stroud glass merchants, Precision Electronics televisions, E. Mounts hardware, Henshaw’s furniture shop, Perkins carpet shop and an army surplus shop and plumbers supply shop. On the right hand side travelling down Stockwell Gate, after Mounts, was the Wheatsheaf pub, still trading, then a horse meat pet food shop. Then came Gunners china store, and then the Crown Hotel, run by Mr Emms and his wife. When stood facing the Crown, on the left was an alley, where I think was a fruit & veg warehouse, then a shop called Babyland and another alley, where I believe Fentone’s printers had a workshop and I think there was a sheet metal worker, Chattertons, who made the copper pan that stood over the brazier fire for the peas to warm up in. Then the CO-OP stores started in some small shop units until you got to the main store. Opposite the CO-OP was Olley’s yard where James Olley had his forge, and where the brazier was made. He also made wrought iron gates, many of which can still be seen in front of houses with his name plate riveted on. On the left was the entrance to the CO-OP slaughter house, and the CO-OP butchers shop. Past the Greyhound pub and the junction with Queen st. and to the market where I would start to unload the barrow.
Jean Harold and her sister-in-law Doreen Powell (Michael’s wife) and May Childs (Tony’s wife) would usually be there as I arrived. First the tilts would be nailed tot he back of the stall, partly for privacy and security, and to keep dust, dirt and rubbish from blowing over the food. The copper pan was placed over the brazier on a steel sheet, with a tinplate 4 inch deep tray inside it raised about 1 inch to allow water to surround it. When Jean, Doreen and May had emptied 2 buckets of shellfish into the plastic bowls, I would take the 2 buckets to where the janitor sat at the back of the gents toilets under the town hall and fill them with hot water. I would fetch about 7 bucket fulls in all, to fill the boiler and to pour into the pea copper prior to the peas going in. One pan of peas would go in as soon as possible as there were always a queue of people waiting to be served, and Jean would not serve the peas if they were not hot. I also fetched 1 bucket of cold water to make 2 bowls of mint sauce using the vinegar and mint concentrate.
I would then return to Layton Ave. with an almost empty wheelbarrow, taking what empty containers there were and pick up 2 more pans of boiled peas, 2 more buckets of whelks, and cockles and mussels and fill the 2 stone vinegar bottles from a 5 gallon barrel and then walk the wheelbarrow back down to the market. Upon my return to Layton Ave. the second time, it was cup of tea time, where we would sit down and have a half hour break before continuing with the work in hand. It would be 11.30 to 12 midday when we had our break.
I recall an amusing incident on one of my return journey’s from the market. I wanted to buy a film for my camera from the CO-OP pharmacy on Stockwell Gate, so I left my wheelbarrow in the road outside the pharmacy, the road was quite narrow there, I walked past the toiletries and medicines to the back of the store where the photographic counter was. When I arrived the assistants were all busy talking between themselves and didn’t pay much attention to a youngster dressed as shabbily as I was. Until a giant of a policeman appeared round the corner.
“Is that your wheelbarrow outside lad?” he asked. It was obviously causing problems with the traffic. “yes” I replied. “How long is it going to be there?” he asked. “As long as it takes them to serve me with a black & white 35mm HP3 film” I answered. ZONK, the assistants could not do enough for me, I was served in record time. “Thanks” I said to the policeman, “I will move my barrow now” I said and he followed me out of the store. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself.
I would make 2 more journeys to market, each time taking 2 pans of peas, and sometimes only 1 bucket of each of the shellfish, I would finish my last journey about 2.00 pm, by which tie both Derek and Tony had finished their work and would do the last runs and would strip the stall down and put everything away, returning the brazier in the old wheelbarrow along with the new wheelbarrow to the lock-up in Thoresby st.
Most Saturday’s everything would sell out, there often being 4 or 5 deep in front of the 2 stalls. Any peas left would either be given to the market workers or disposed of with any other waste generated by the stall.
At this same time there was another pea stall on West Gate market owned by the Peatman family. Peatman’s also use to sell peas at the miners annual rally held at Berry Hill Park. Each summer the local collieries would hold a gala demonstration, the secretary of the N.U.M. and all the officials would march through Mansfield town centre on a Saturday along with all the other collieries in the Nottinghamshire coalfields, proudly parading their colliery banner, and the collieries that had them, their brass bands, and march tot he Berry Hill grounds, where there would be side shows, the beer tent, and Peatman’s always had a pea stall each year there.
John William Henry Peatman and his wife owned the stall, assisted by Maureen Hogg, from the age of 14 years, assisted by their son William and his sister Winifred. Eventually Maureen and William Peatman married and worked the pea stall, both in Mansfield and travelling to fairs, with his parents and sister Winifred.
Around the time John William Henry Peatman died in the late 1950’s, Maureen & William Peatman had bought a fish & chip shop on Big Barn Lane, Mansfield, and soon after gave up the pea stall leaving it to his sister, Winifred, who by now had married Mr Mark Hazard, son of William Henry Hazard. Winifred & Mark went on to have a son, Peter Hazard.
Peter Hazard told me that his grandfather William Henry Hazard was a showman along with his son Mark on the northern fairgrounds, when the rides and living quarters were pulled by horses. Winifred Peatman who with her parents and grandparents worked the fairs in the summer months selling peas and shellfish, and in the quieter winter months had a pea stall on Mansfield’s West Gate market, close to the butter cross monument, that is still standing today. William & Maureen Peatman lived and stored their stall in Gilbert’s Yard off Bridge st., Mansfield, where they also prepared the peas and shellfish prior to selling it from their stall.
They also stood at Goose Fair, Nottingham, and a young William Hazard remembers at a very young age being tucked into an empty crate under the stall, it being used as a cot. This was when his parents and grandparents managed the stall.
I cannot write about Child’s pea stall without mentioning Froggatt’s roundabout which was sited very close to it in front of the old court house. Youngsters, myself included, would enjoy a plate of peas and then a ride on their favourite ride on the roundabout. A double-deck bus, an aeroplane and two motorbike rides from Froggatt’s old roundabout are still around, they are in the Victorian Antiques & Collectables warehouse on Victoria st., Mansfield.
And now the tradition of the pea stall on Mansfield market is being carried on by Mark Page, who lives in Nottingham. His father Mr Leonard Page had a stall selling jeans, T shirts and sweatshirts in the centre of the market place, and each Saturday he would visit the market’s office to see if there was an end stall available, because there was more footfall on the end stalls. The pea stall had been closed for a few weeks and the market’s office had an advert up asking for someone to restart the pea stall as the shoppers were complaining about it’s closure.
Leonard Page decided to have a go at restarting the pea stall and wound down his clothing stall, and with some help and guidance for a few weeks from Tony Childs, Leonard, his wife and 2 Saturday helpers acquired the knowledge sufficient to manage the pea stall on their own. Soon after his son Mark helped and eventually took over from his father and is still managing it to this day.
With the shrinking of the market, the stall has moved from outside the Market Hotel to where it is now, opposite Greenwood’s menswear shop. Standing 4 or 5 days a week, Mark also now sells hot meat pies along with the peas and seafood. He hopes that if the market survives, he will be able to hand the business down to his nephew or niece if they are interested when he retires. He no longer stands the Goose Fair, as almost every burger van sells peas and it just is not worth doing now.
My apologies if any of the facts are incorrect, my only defence is that all I have recollected dates back 56 years or so.
My thanks to Michael Powell, Michael Childs and Margaret, Tony’s daughter and Jack Harold, Mark Page and Peter Hazard, and William and Maureen Peatman for letting me tax their memories, and the valuable help they gave me where my memory failed me.
Terry Burrows, February 2016