It is Wednesday and Market Day in Ringwood, one of the oldest New Forest towns. Ringwood grew up as a nuclear settlement where the River Avon was bridged and where the road from north to south crossed the road from east to west. The Saxon name for Ringwood, Rimucwude, translates as The Rim of the Forest, which well describes its situation just a few miles to the west of the New Forest boundary.
In 1226, King Henry III granted a Market Charter to the Lord of the Manor of Ringwood. Ever since, the Wednesday Market has been held each week. Until 1989, Ringwood had a thriving market for cattle, New Forest ponies and other livestock. The old cattle market site is now the Furlong shopping centre with its modern fashion stores and a supermarket. Only the old Framptons Mill remains, converted to a cafe, as a reminder of past times.
Today, the market still comes to Ringwood and is still a focus for local life. I love to wander around the Market Place, looking for fresh food and bargains, watching people who have grown up and lived their lives in a small town. Hearing their soft Hampshire burr as they greet old friends and chat. Feeling a real sense of a community that has been here for centuries.
My own Great Grandfather was a dairyman on an Avon Valley farm some four miles north of here. My Granny used to tell me that her father drove his horse and cart into Ringwood for market days, to sell cheese and butter made in their dairy. I imagine how early he must have set off to reach the town and how tired he must have been at the day`s end when he and his horse drove home up the winding Salisbury road. I wonder if he met old friends in the Market Place inns and if any of their own descendents are here among the market crowds today?
Here are scenes of the town this morning, on a mild October Market Day.
A walk down the High Street towards the Market Place. High Street buildings date from the early 1800s through to the present day. There are still traditional old family run shops alongside the banks and building societies. A butcher, a fishmonger, a local baker and a hardware store survive, despite competition from the large supermarkets on the newer, northern border of the town centre. Sadly, several shops stand empty today, with their blind, white painted windows and "To Let" signs, reflecting the difficult times that small businesses are experiencing as the Recession bites.
Some views of Market Place as I walked westwards from the High Street. Varied and colourful stalls, with friendly stall holders who ask fair prices, attract townspeople and those from surrounding Forest villages every Wednesday morning. You can buy fruit and vegetables, meat and cheese from local farms, books, clothing, fresh fish, pet supplies, plants, flowers, towels and linen and numerous other goods.
The building behind scaffolding is the old town cinema.
In the Market Place stands the red Jubilee Lamp. This lamp was erected to celebrate Queen Victoria`s Golden Jubilee in 1887. It was paid for by the people of Ringwood to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Victoria`s reign. Today, the fine old lamp was rather overshadowed by the busy Pet Food stall!
Just north of the market square stands the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul. A church existed here for many years before this one was built in 1853 -1855 during the Victorian craze for "upgrading" country churches.
Turning around to face eastwards across the market and down the High Street.
The market stall on the right sells organic salad crops and vegetables grown at their farm in a nearby Avon Valley village. I bought lettuce, red cabbage and cucumber for tonight`s salad. Our garden salad crops are over for this year, so it is good to find fresh local produce in the market.
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