Before Markets

A story by Beryl Bowden

An advertisement for the forthcoming markets made me think of the way excess foodstuffs were disposed of when I was young; I am speaking of 80 years ago.

The forerunners to the recently introduced Stroud Vintage Markets were, what we Stroud locals called, the ‘Union’. A strange name… I have no idea where it came from… or what it meant.

Every Saturday afternoon, people would bring their surplus garden produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot, cabbage, lettuce, beans and stoned fruit in season, to be auctioned. Also to be disposed of were eggs, chooks, dairy products; anything that was surplus to their needs. The chooks could be cackling loudly with all feathers in place, or ready for the oven. A ‘setting’ hen was available if you needed one and you could purchase a clutch of eggs ready to hatch. Available too, dressed rabbits supplied by the junior male family members, were a means of obtaining pocket money for them and cheap meat for the housewives’ table.

The Union was held every Saturday behind what is now the Stroud Hardware Shop. While the auction was in progress we sat on wooden forms without backs; they were pretty hard after you had been sitting on them for a while. (Stackable, plastic chairs were well in the future.) Mostly the auction was conducted in the open but on wet days we made use of the verandah on the large shed behind the shop. Each General Store, had a ‘back’ shed in which were stored large items such as bags of wheat, chaff, shell grit, sugar and flour.

Unlike the present-day markets there were no stalls or stall holders. The local auctioneer, Mr Bruce Green, auctioned the goods. No doubt there was some arrangement as to his commission. Mr Clarrie Price handled the money and kept a record of the transactions.


Mum always sent my sister Nancy and myself with a list of things to buy. Twelve-year-old Nancy was reputed to be a good ‘wheeler and dealer’ so she was sent to bid for the goods and nine-year-old me, helped carry her purchases home. Before Health and Safety regulations were enforced, one could happily sell cooked goods made in your own kitchen, without the added worry of inspectors wandering around inspecting the premises for any lapses in hygiene and safety practises.

Mum made jams, pickles and sauces so we often had some to take to sell for her. (We were pleased when they were sold as they were quite heavy and we didn’t fancy carrying them back home.)

Mr Green often teased Nancy by saying ‘Come on Nancy these are lovely tomatoes, lettuce, etc. I am sure your mother would like them and they are going cheap.’
If Nancy wasn’t interested, she would say, with a shake of her head, ’No thanks Mr Green they are too ripe, or too green, or too dear etc.’ He was never able to budge her and this friendly banter amused the other buyers.

After paying for our purchases we would make our way home. Usually, we managed to get what Mum wanted and often was able to hand her some change.

It has just occurred to me that there was no clothing for sale. We wore our clothes until they were worn out!!!

3 Comments on “Before Markets”

  1. Kevin Tull January 12, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    you are a winner Beryl …keep up the great work

  2. Beryl Bowden September 19, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Thanks Rowena. Writing from ‘real’ life comes easy! Glad you like it.

  3. Rowena Frost September 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    Another brilliant blog! I love reading your actual real life history, you have such a great memory and way with words Beryl. Thanks for sharing!

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