Oldham Historical Research Group

'Oldham Stories'

     'Oldham Stories'
by Mary Dickinson

Oldham Market

Just now there is a lot of talk about Oldham Market and how they are going to arrange it. I have not been able to look round the market for about two years now. I used to enjoy going round the market, not just for the bargains, but for the atmosphere. You would always meet someone you knew and the people on the stalls were so helpful. Anyone over sixty will remember a very different market from today.

I will try to tell you what it was like when I was small. Curzon St. was quite a busy place. There was the Penny Bazaar where nothing cost more than sixpence. As you walked in the first things cost a halfpenny then the prices went up till on the last stall everything cost sixpence. There were some marvellous toys and many a Christmas Stocking has been filled from the Penny Bazaar. You could buy celluloid dolls, mouth organs, trains, well anything you liked. It always seemed a happy place. At Christmas time Father Christmas stood outside with the biggest sack you ever saw. He was chubby with rosy cheeks and always seemed so real to me.

Next door was Ellison and Sparks. You could buy things like collars, ribbons and belts there. The window was full of lace and buttons. You couldn't ask for the wrong thing there. Whitsuntide was a very busy time there. Next door was a shop called Lipton's, a grocer's, which sold butter, sugar, tea and cheese. I was always fascinated by the pay system there. The cash desk was high up behind a glass partition. The money you paid was put in a box and it travelled along wires up to the cash desk, then you had to wait till you got your change by the same process.

Across the way was the Meadow and outside the doorway was a massive mirror. I think everyone in Oldham has looked in that mirror. I used to go in there for butter and jam. I was always served by a dark young lady. She had two wooded spatulas and she would take some butter from the tub and knock it about till 1t was a nice pat of butter with fancy lines on top. She was very

Cooper's Hat Shop was at the comer and I think all the boys in Oldham had their caps from there. They sold all kinds of headgear — caps, straw hats, trilbys and bowlers. Each hat had a bright new penny on top. I think that drew in a lot of customers It was the last place my mother would call with her boys at Whitsuntide.

Oldham Market used to be crowded till midnight on Saturday. There were Aunt Sally stalls, Hoop-La and Coconut Shys down one side. Three balls a Penny! Down the other side were the Quack stalls. You would see "Professors" saying they could cure anything from a cough to rheumatism. There was a woman dressed as a nurse selling bottles of medicine. People didn't go to the doctor's so much in those days because you had to pay. One man had a young boy on his stall who was quite bald. The man would rub on some hair restorer and every week after that there would be a bit more hair on the boy's head. He did very well selling his hair restorer.

Bailey's pot stall did very well on Fridays and Saturdays. An old man and his son stood there selling tea-sets, omaments and glassware. He would say a price and knock it down when no one was bidding. Few houses in Oldham are without something from Bailey's. People who were engaged or just married would be there every week. I have a plate which I bought forty three years

Every week a man came to Oldham selling suits I think he was called Morris Sac. He would hold up a suit and point to a man in the crowd and shout
"Ten Shillings for this suit, it will fit you." The man would try it on there and then. Soon a crowd would gather round. Some suits would be sold for as little as four shillings. There were lots of meat stalls and as there were no fridges in those days the butchers would sell off their meat after nine o' clock. He would be there till he had nothing left to sell. Many a good Saturday's supper was bought very reasonably. They sold piano music on the market. There was a piano on a lorry and a lady would sing and get the crowd to sing along while the man went around selling the sheet music.

There was no electric in those days. Everything was lit up by gas flares. The Pea-man stood at the top of the Arcade. He wore a black bowler hat and a long white apron. He scooped the peas from a sack. If you had any money left you could buy twopermyworth of potato-pie from Horsefall's cook shop. There was a big poster outside showing a man pouring gravy from a bowl. Near the Rock St. end there was a man selling hot potatoes from a stove. It did smell of cinders but how warm it was as you walked past on your way home. There was never any bother on the streets in those days. Oldham was a happy place.

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