Chagford Livestock Market

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    Jon Lawrence

    Timothy Garratt, Chagford’s Livestock Market before the move to Crannafords

    The first time Vanessa and I saw (or had even heard of) Chagford, was on a wet November Sunday evening in 1974. Unforgettably, there was little light, few cars and no people or outdoor activity: very drab and uninviting!; I was coming for an interview with the prospect of taking a position at Rendells.

    Well, events took their course and we duly arrived in April 1975, to take up, shortly thereafter, a partnership in the firm. Although we had spent a couple of years in Barnstaple, our “home-country” was Sussex and we found upland rural living and professional practice very different, but very welcoming. Professionally speaking my many early mistakes and misunderstandings were quickly forgiven, so long as they were understood and never repeated! We soon made many friends and found the simpler social life much more to our taste than that which we had left behind in the South-east.

    Although Rendells had (and still have) a widespread auction and estate agency practice, covering all of South Devon, the main income at the Chagford office came from the seasonal livestock sales at Chagford Market. People will have seen old photos of cattle herded and gathered for sale in the town centre and around the Market House. When we arrived the market had long since been removed and was held in a field borrowed from the Webber family, behind the Globe in what is now the group of houses called Market Field. Sales on this site were held 7 times a year, including the Pony Sale and 6 for cattle.

    I had never had anything to do with ponies of any sort before, so the Pony Sale was a real eye-opener. About 300 ponies would arrive on site, starting in the pitch black before 6.00am as ponies were sold in order of arrival and the first lots always had an advantage. I recall one particularly wet sale at which every pony lost its lot numbers to the rain at least twice before the end of the sale and I don’t think any pony left the sale-yard with a number on its back. But the skill and goodwill of the buyers prevailed, enabling every pony to be recognised and consigned to its correct destination, with only one being mislaid.

    Market days were significant for the entire town, as there was no room on the site to accommodate vehicles even for unloading and loading. The largest sale was always held in early March, when as many as 400 cattle had to be accommodated. Sales in those early days rarely comprised less than 150 head, a lot of stock to get into and out of a small apace. Most stock was driven in on foot from the surrounding farms and had to be held up in the street in herd groups while the previous consignment was penned up. A few from further afield came in farm trailers, also waiting along New Street, High Street and down from the car park: chaos (though orderly) even in those traffic-less days!

    Many buyers came from all over England, glad to take our healthy and hardy hill cattle away to rich fattening pastures and yards in the corn-producing areas. Big lorry-loads went to East Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk and Suffolk from each sale, and the lorries waiting to take them away parked up nose to tail all along beside the Churchyard wall. That is unimaginable today with the amount of domestic traffic about.

    Of course, everyone knew that “the writing was on the wall” and no one was surprised when the Webber family wanted to develop the site for housing. In any event, holding the market on the site was becoming ever more fraught as the local community found the activity less and less quaint and more and more aggravating to daily town life. And so, in 1991, after a heart-searching period of reflection and encouragement from the local farming community, the firm purchased the present site at Crannafords from the Ellis family, holding its first market on the new site in March 1992. The market continues to this day, but with a good deal less aggravation to the town population than in former times.

    Timothy Garratt

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Jon Lawrence.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Jon Lawrence.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Jon Lawrence.
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