11 September 2014

Seven secrets of Swansea Market

Swansea Market is known for its array of produce, its busy atmosphere and tight-knit community of stall-holders but have you ever wondered about its colourful history?

The market has been trading in and around Swansea’s city centre for nearly a thousand years and this weekend visitors will be able to explore its rich heritage as part of Swansea’s Open House and Cadw’s Open Doors – the largest volunteer event in the heritage sector in Wales.

Standing on Oxford Street since 1830, the market has seen the business highs of the 1920s and the structural devastation administered by German bombs in the 1940s.
On Saturday, September 13, the site’s history will come to life with an audio tour featuring popular stall-holders. The tour was created by Creative Bubble, an initiative between University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea BID, and will take place at 11am, 12pm and 1pm. To book a place email: lucy.beddall@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk.

Here are seven hidden secrets of Swansea Market that we discovered ahead of the tour.

1. 2,700 Welsh cakes are baked every week at the Jan Evans’ Bakery (that’s 388,800 a year!)

Jan Evans of Jan Evans Bakery

 by Swansea Market

  • Stallholder: Jan Evans
  • How long have you been at the market? I’ve been here over 40 years.
  • My Swansea market story: When Prince Charles came to the Market in 2012 a few of us were chosen to meet him. He was a lovely man – really friendly. What’s funny is that a few weeks previous, X-Factor’s Chico was in the market - doing promo for the panto, he was - all dressed up as Prince Charming! I thought to myself, I’ve been waiting 40 years for a prince to come to the market and now two have come along in one month!
  • What do you sell? I sell all sorts and it’s freshly baked every day. I’ve always got Bara Planc, pasties, loaves, currant buns and of course, Welsh cakes! How could I forget Welsh cakes? We make nearly 3,000 of the things a week!

2. The market was decimated by German bombs during WW2

Swansea Market during World War II

 by http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/

During the Second World War, the market was destroyed by German bombs. This image shows all that remained of the building’s huge glass and iron roof.

As the market was a vital food supply to the 23,000 people of Swansea, an open-air makeshift venue was soon built. The open air market continued on the Oxford Street site throughout the 1940s and 50s while £1.25 million was raised for a new market to be built.

3. One market stall has been run by the same family for 158 years

Coakley-Green Fishmongers by http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/

  • Stall holder: Adrian Coakley-Greene
  • How long have you been at the Market? I have been here 42 years but the business has been run by the family since 1856.
  • My Swansea market story: Every year on Christmas Eve my father, who is 92 - and a joint partner in the business with myself and my daughter - comes to the market for the day and helps us on the stall. It’s a family tradition which we hope to continue for as long as we can as it’s very nostalgic for him to come back and re-live the many years he spent on the stall in his youth.
  • What do you sell? We sell 40 lines of fish ranging from plaice, haddock, hake and prawns to fresh shellfish, crab and lobster – quite different to what would have been sold on my family’s stall in 1856. They probably only had about eight different species on sale at any one time in those days – at a guess there would have been salted cod, whole plaice, whole hake and fresh haddock and I doubt anything would have been filleted like it is now.

4. Traders will go out of their way to please customers – even if it means creating a new product!

Billy Upton’s Butcher, Swansea Market

 by http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/

  • Stall holder: Mark Adams
  • How long have you been at the market? I’ve been here 36 years but I’ve owned this business for 21 years.
  • My Swansea market story: After requests from various South African customers, we started making biltong meat at the shop! It’s a spiced silverside beef cut very finely and dried out. It’s a very unusual meat but delicious and I tell you, it is growing in popularity. It’s a pleasure to make something so different at the market and I suppose it’s testament to how we do anything we can here to please our customers.
  • What is the best thing about working at the market? You forge great relationships with the people you serve here. I mean, I remember some of my regular customers being born! I’ve served grandmothers, mothers and children – and of course, those children are starting to bring in babies of their own now.

5. Swansea Market is a favourite haunt of body builders and weightlifters

Health world by http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/

  • Shop Manager: Elaine
  • How long have you been at the market? I have been here for 23 years.
  • My Swansea market story: We’re a very tight-knit community here at the market – we trust each other and there’s always someone here to help out. If you want to run to the loo or pop out all you have to do is shout and next minute someone will jump on the stall for you or offer to keep an eye on the shop – people talk about competition at the market but everyone is happy to help each other out when it comes down to it.
  • What does your store offer? It’s the only shop in the market which offers such a large range of health products so we’ve been the go-to place for families, health nuts and even body builders for years now!

6. Stall holders travel from far and wide to set up shop in Swansea Market

Thai Taste – takeaway and restaurant by http://www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk/

  • Stall holder: Keith Howard
  • How long have you been at the market: Only six months.
  • My Swansea market story: I’m English and my wife is Thai so living in Swansea is a brand new experience for both of us. When we were looking for somewhere to start the new business, Swansea seemed like the perfect place. And we were right: the market is the funniest and loveliest place that I have ever had the pleasure of working in.
  • What is your most popular dish: Cashew Chicken – it’s a little bit spicy, but filled with fresh veg and cooked in a delicious sauce. This one is always a favourite.

7. Swansea Market is the subject of a phonetic poem, written in the Swansea dialect

David Hughes’ poem ‘Swansea Market’, describes the rich sights, tastes and smells of market produce, all in a literary representation of the Swansea accent.

Mr Hughes, who also features in the short film, said: “The market is the true centre of Swansea, its beating heart – and it always has been. It ensures that shopping is a social and sociable experience. It keeps Swansea healthy!