Gaps in the market

Spotted what's missing at the market this week? No white marquee again.

Normally, in the Thursday early hours you can hear the market traders’ vans arriving and from around 4:30am you hear the box steel framework of the stalls being unloaded, ringing as they hit the tarmac. Not a bad noise and one you get used to. After all if you live in central Rye you must live with, and expect, a degree of noise, it’s a busy place and thankfully, many visitors want to come here.

I started my weekly pilgrimage this morning, Thursday, January 23, re-usable carrier bag in hand, my mission to stock up on fruit and veg, bin bags, firelighters and probably a few ‘bits’ from the big white marquee.

The ‘meat man’ is here every week come rain or shine.

The weather was cold but not freezing, no rain in sight (yet!) but there was something very different about today’s market, conspicuous by their absence were shoppers and traders.

Usually by 8am the majority of stall holders have set up, had their first cuppa and are all set to welcome new customers. Those who arrived today were way out numbered by the empty spaces, usually taken by fellow stall holders but for some reason, today the market was probably 75% less occupied than normal.

The white marquee on the entrance to the market, usually a mecca for hoards of students stocking up on essentials on their way to Rye College, was not there. They may well be on their annual break but this is the third week in a row that their pitch has been empty.

The fruit and veg stall, meat wagon, flower man and a few of the usual stalwarts were present and with queues beginning to form. But throughout the market there were huge gaps, no stalls, no customers – just a few lucky motorists who discovered the numerous empty parking bays which no doubt were a great relief to them.

This space is normally buzzing with shoppers, not this week. Is it the weather or something else?

Usually, by 10am the coaches will have arrived, plenty of them, full of visitors to Rye, mainly elderly folk coming to experience the market and spend what allocated time they have been given, visiting what they can, taking in the sights of the town, and spending their money. I didn’t see any tourist coaches today. There was nowhere to park as the area designated for them on the station car park has been dug up and was being resurfaced.

Granted, January is not an exciting month, Christmas overspend has probably kicked in, credit card bills need to be settled, self assessment tax returns need to be filed, and the latest spate of miserable weather certainly hasn’t filled us with awe and wonderment.

This aside, am I getting paranoid, or is the scale of the market diminishing because the traders can’t make it pay; or is it just a seasonal lull and, with better weather, new life will be breathed into it; is the re-surfacing of the station car park having a bigger impact than we thought or have the shoppers found somewhere else to buy their bits?

Resurfacing work taking place in the station car park, no parking for coaches this week.
Plenty of space for drivers with so few stalls in place.

As a lay person, to me the station car park appeared to have one of the best road surfaces in the town, but there must have been a valid reason for digging it up and no doubt spending a small fortune resurfacing it. If only Network Rail had responsibility for all our local roads and maintained them to a similar standard, what bliss!

Rye Market is an important weekly event, and yes it causes problems on a Thursday as the car park is car-less for most of the day. But on the flip-side, its presence enables all of us to buy what we need on a weekly basis, and it attracts huge numbers of shoppers and tourists alike who spend their hard earned cash and add to the success of our local economy.

It will be interesting to see how many stallholder gaps there are next week. The traders won’t come if the shoppers are not there, and the shoppers won’t come if the traders don’t show up, so it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but hopefully normal business will soon be resumed. So let’s see what transpires.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .


  1. Interesting article and I have also noticed that the Thursday market has been shrinking. There are certainly fewer folk at the veg stall (it seems to be half the size, and pricier, since the new owners took over and this has probably put some people off). It’s also a shame that the white marquee has disappeared? It sold the most astonishing things, really cheaply: army rations anyone? Great fun to browse.

    You state it is an important weekly event: is this really so? I know we are a market town and all that but you have to agree a lot of the stalls are pretty unimaginative and full of cheap old tat one can buy anywhere. Maybe it’s time for a rethink and combine the farmers market on a Wednesday (aqain pretty sparsely populated at the moment) and inject a bit of vibrancy into Thursdays?

  2. I know from past experience that many stallholders go to warmer climes at this time of year – who can blame them! Let’s hope this is the reason for the small number of stalls.

  3. I am new to the area and found this market very disappointing. Apart from veg, the stalls were full of tatty goods. I have not returned since my initial visit. I think it needs a new more modern approach: local farmers produce and genuine local quality crafts.
    Should the Council need a model to consider, Greenwich market is excellent.
    A really good market would draw many more locals and tourists alike.

  4. After 10 years of the most economically brutal government in decades, the chronic savaging of local government services dictated by a callous central regime, and a pitiless under-investment in rural areas there are many locals for whom the reasonably-priced clothes, household wares and foodstuffs in Rye Market are a lifeline!
    It should be remembered too that the market is privately run on private land and no council (Rye Town, Rother District or East East Sussex County) can dictate who the stallholders are.

  5. I really think this could be the beginning of the end for Rye market, with very few stalls at present the owners of the market must be losing money on thursdays now, once the parking meters are on the streets,this the cheapest car park in Rye will be full 7 days a week, however one has loved this market over the years,all good things come to an end, the downside will be will the people still flock to Rye on the buses if it closes,I doubt it, we have lost our banks, and so many other things over the years, what next a reduced bus service, as there will be very little for the shoppers in the immediate locality to come to the town, its very sad as towns like Tenterden go from strength too strength, and Rye goes in the opposite direction.

  6. Aaaah, I see there is the usual rabid rant about government ‘austerity’. No doubt engendered by the utter failure in the last election of the Liberal and Labour parties to con the electorate into believing they would manage the country better. I’m surprised Brexit wasn’t blamed as well.
    I have a solution however, which should appeal to those two losing parties.
    I propose we introduce a ‘tat allowance’ benefit, not means tested and payable to all. That way the less well off and indeed the affluent among us could wander down the market on it’s due day and gaily squander tax payers money. They could invest their allowance on such desirables as soap on a rope, monogrammed phone cases, fake designer t-shirts, ketchup flavoured olives etc etc. It’s a win win for all. The market traders, the tat addicts and those with weird tastes and nothing better to do.
    I should be in government with ideas like this.


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