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After more than 30 years working in Newport’s indoor market, record stallholder Dean Beddis was packing up his collection of punk, new wave, reggae, funk and soul discs for the last time.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Beddis. “This building is much more than a market. It’s a family, a wonderful community that has developed over decades. This is the heart and soul of Newport. I think that is all going to be lost. I’ve had people here in tears. It’s so sad.”
Opened in the 19th century, Newport Provisions Market has served the south Wales city well, but is in the midst of fundamental changes.
Most of the stallholders are moving out and builders will soon arrive to convert the place into a multi-million pound, multi-purpose centre.
Some market stalls will remain but there will also be apartments, offices, a food court with pop-up units and a performance space. Newport city council calls it “potentially the largest market redevelopment in the UK” and says it will create a “24-hour working/living space”.
Many are not convinced. “This isn’t trendy Camden,” said Beddis. “It’s working-class Newport.” He remembers how Newport people would bring in fruit, veg and flowers from their allotments to sell at the market. He used to collect chestnuts to sell to help make ends meet. “What people want here is a thriving, proper market. Not a fake version of a market.”
The developers say the stallholders can stay if they want to. But Mike Turner, a butcher whose father founded AD Turner & Sons here in 1961, said the terms being offered were not attractive. “I’m looking for new premises. We’re absolutely heartbroken to be going. When my father started, there were 23 butchers in this market. We’re the last one. But we feel we have no choice but to go. They are changing the whole nature and purpose of the place.”
Johanna Davies’s family has run a florist shop in the market since 1942, and black-and-white images of her mother and grandmother, who worked here before her, are pinned to her stall. “When I first came there were four florists here. Over the years, the market has been systematically run down. We’re not staying.”
Four or five businesses say they will remain. The comic store, Friendly Neighbourhood Comics, is staying, as is the cafe Lisa’s Kitchen and an escape room business. Hilary from Bibs and Bobs, who has been selling children’s clothes for 29 years, is still making her final decision.
But up to 30 traders, including a long-established greengrocers and a secondhand bookshop, are moving out. Stalls that have already vanished over recent years include a delicatessen, pet supplies shop and a fishmongers.
The council argues the redevelopment will give the market a “brighter and more sustainable future” and act as a catalyst for further regeneration, claiming: “It could attract 100 new businesses and create over 300 sustainable jobs.”
As in towns and cities across the UK, the state of the whole city centre has been on the top of the agenda in Newport for more than a decade. A sparkling new shopping and leisure centre, Friars Walk, opened in 2015. But many feel the focus on Friars Walk has hastened the decline of the market and the traditional main drag, Commercial Street, where the department store Wildings closed last year after 145 years of trading.
Whether the new market project works or not, it is the end of an era for many Newport citizens.
Lucy Ramsey, a book publicist who has been going to the market since the 60s, said: “My mother and grandmother would take me there. There was a sea of legs, it was so crowded.”
She said people who could least afford it would be most affected by the market’s change of direction.
“It provided fresh, local produce at very reasonable prices. A fishmongers had recently been coming to the market once a week and there was always a very long queue to shop there. It shows there is a demand for outlets like that.
“The majority of people in Newport are not well-off since the decline of industry in the area and the market was somewhere that people on a low income needed. It’s a shame that such a brilliant place is being lost to the city.”
Simon Baston, the owner of LoftCo, the company behind the development, said the current market was in terminal decline.
He said the market was in need of £3m of maintenance now and said £8-10m would be spent on the redevelopment. Baston promised a new butcher and greengrocer would be found to replace those moving out.
“There hasn’t been a thriving market there for a long time,” he said. “We want to create a market fit for the 21st century.”