In the market for… anything and everything

Some things never change, and for that we can be thankful. At the heart of Newcastle city centre, The Grainger Market is only 23 years short of its 200th birthday and the differences between today and opening day in 1835 are probably not that great. 

It remains the city’s largest traditional market and there remains the classical arcade-style architecture, the huge range of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, crafts, hardware and haberdashery, the noise, the good smells, and bustle of a traditional market and – intriguingly – many old family names above stalls which have been passed down the generations.

The market has always had a weigh house, though today it is brave shoppers rather than meat carcasses who are weighed here for 30p a pop (note – there is always a queue and your weight is discreetly noted on a ticket by the assistant and handed silently over).

There have always been cafes catering for every taste from full English breakfasts to freshly baked cakes and muffins, to oysters and chips, plus there remains a Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar; the world’s smallest M&S store and quite a talking point.

Refreshingly smart, tidy, and curiously contemporary yet traditional… 

Fans of statistics will already know that more than 2,000 people attended the grand opening ceremony in 1835 and that today The Grainger Market remains as popular as ever, welcoming up to 200,000 shoppers every week and keeping many hundreds
gainfully employed.

It is apparent to anyone with an ounce of knowledge of the local architecture that it was built by Richard Grainger and designed by John Dobson, though you might not know that it was the largest indoor market in the world when it opened. I don’t know how it compares internationally today in terms of scale, but can there be any more vibrant place in any city the world over?

Grade I-listed, it is elegant and classically styled and was described by one local newspaper journalist who witnessed its opening as “the most magnificent in the world”.

It’s also survived two world wars and a few fires to remain exactly what a covered market should be – a hive of activity in the heart of the city; a place to shop, to meet and to wander.
Unlike many modern shopping malls, you can’t get lost because it’s all laid out on a simple grid system with numbered alleys, and everything is refreshingly smart, tidy and curiously contemporary, yet traditional all at the same time

When it was first built, it was divided into two parts: the eastern section was a meat market laid out in a series of aisles and the western section was a vegetable market in a large open-plan hall. The produce remains, though the divisions have changed.

More than 100 different shop units from traditional fruit and veg, butchers and fishmongers to specialist foods

The Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar is, one supposes, a bit of a tourist attraction, but it is also a symbol of the timelessness and multi-generational appeal of the entire place.

I reckon you could, at a push, buy every item you need in a life of three score and ten here. There are more than 100 different shop units ranging from traditional fruit and veg, butchers and fishmongers to specialist food, fashion, ethnic goods, cobblers and plant stalls, and there’s an arts and craft market here on the second Saturday of
each month.

Apart from the big stuff like a car, a house and major household appliances, surely everything you need in daily life could come from this one place, and you could probably fulfil all your social needs here too in the company of the stallholders, many of whom are the latest in a long family line to trade here.

Little Bazaar provides ethnic crafts, Ellen’s Cosmetics and The Wig Shop make their appeal obvious in their names, Pat’s Kandy Box is a magnet to all under the age of 12, while the Cheap Tab Shop is exactly that.

You can get your watch mended, your shoes fixed, your clothes adjusted and buy camping equipment. There are places for fabric, gifts, luggage, tools, electrical goods and batteries.

As mentioned, The Grainger Market is also home to a huge range of quality food produce from butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers and there are cafes, coffee shops and delis both within its four walls and in the streets which surround it to suit everyone with any size of pocket. Hence, in addition to buying all you need here in a lifetime, you could probably eat all you need here during the same life. Imagine that.

The Grainger Market is open Monday and Wednesday 9am to 5pm, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9am to 5.30pm

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