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Romford’s new Sunday market proving a hit with shoppers

PUBLISHED: 12:00 28 July 2020

Vivian Coombes pictured with happy customers, including Pat Wright (first from right), who came to support the trader as Romford Market continues to pick up after reopening. Picture: Ken Mears

Vivian Coombes pictured with happy customers, including Pat Wright (first from right), who came to support the trader as Romford Market continues to pick up after reopening. Picture: Ken Mears

Ken Mears Photography

Romford Market is back with a bang.

Sian Nye, pictured with son Louie Harding and niece Maisie Kew, who came out to enjoy the market on Sunday. Picture: Ken MearsSian Nye, pictured with son Louie Harding and niece Maisie Kew, who came out to enjoy the market on Sunday. Picture: Ken Mears

Bustling with customers for its second trial Sunday outing, this market really matters to the town.

For its traders and customers, it’s more than simply a place to make a living or pick up a bargain. It’s a cornerstone of the community, sorely missed during lockdown.

Though Sundays are a new trading day, the market itself has been open in some form since 1247.

There was a sense of appreciation in the air during the Recorder’s visit, as traders and customers spoke enthusiastically about the market; why they love it, and why they’re glad to have it back.

Shoppers browsing the stalls of Romford Market which is now open on Sunday in a trial run. Picture: Ken MearsShoppers browsing the stalls of Romford Market which is now open on Sunday in a trial run. Picture: Ken Mears

Fashion retailer Vivian Coombes has worked the market for 35 years — “in the same spot” — she beams.

When discussing lockdown, the 77-year-old doesn’t hold back: “That killed me.”

For Vivian, there is only one reason to come back to work: “I love being here. I lost my husband last year, so it helps me more to come. It gets me out. I’ve got all my regular old girls who come here, year in and year out.”

She says that as long as she can afford to pay the girls who help her, she’s happy.

Stall holder Safrian Baig pictured with his perfume stall, which he has brought to Romford Market. Picture: Ken MearsStall holder Safrian Baig pictured with his perfume stall, which he has brought to Romford Market. Picture: Ken Mears

It’s not about money. It’s about community: “I don’t come here for lots of money; there isn’t lots of money around anymore. It’s my social life.”

Though from Canvey Island, Vivian has a special affection for the locals, who she describes as “lovely, genuine people”.

It’s clear she has a real rapport with her regulars, one of whom — Joan Whitmore — successfully haggles on the price of a new top as she gives her interview.

Joan is one of many customers who is buzzing to see the market open once again.

Trader Vivian Coombes - a market trader for 35 years - pictured with regular customer Joan Whitemore at Romford Market. Picture: Ken MearsTrader Vivian Coombes - a market trader for 35 years - pictured with regular customer Joan Whitemore at Romford Market. Picture: Ken Mears

Pat Wright, also from Canvey, is another. She remembers her mum getting her first dog — “back when they did dogs” — at Romford Market.

Smiling widely, Pat adds: “You miss all this. There’s just so much character in Romford.”

The new Sunday market has welcomed more than 20 traders from Dagenham; amongst those are men’s fashion retailer Richard Green and Safrian Biag, who runs a perfume stall.

A trader for 37 years, Richard spoke of a pleasant first day in Romford: “I think it’s a nice place and I like the people.”

Shoppers browsing the stalls of Romford Market which is now open on Sunday in a trial run. Picture: Ken MearsShoppers browsing the stalls of Romford Market which is now open on Sunday in a trial run. Picture: Ken Mears

He proudly admits how much he loves his work, a family business spanning 70 years and three generations.

“I’ve only done one job since I was 13, so I can’t not enjoy it. That’s all I’ve ever done.”

As with Vivian, Richard found lockdown tricky; closing his business for 14 weeks wasn’t something he was used to.

With a wry smile, he highlights an important positive: “But the house looks good.”

Trader Ray Flowers discussing the trial return of Romford Market on Sundays. Picture: Ken MearsTrader Ray Flowers discussing the trial return of Romford Market on Sundays. Picture: Ken Mears

Safrian is also relatively new to Romford market, with this his second week.

“This market is more of a high street. You’ve got footfall from the shopping centres; you have people coming from the high street.”

So far, business is steady, says Safrian: “For the first day at a new market, it wasn’t bad.”

Husband and wife Ray and Tracey Flowers have been running a stall together for 35 years.

Romford Sunday Market trader Richard Green. Picture: Ken MearsRomford Sunday Market trader Richard Green. Picture: Ken Mears

Though happy to be back, Ray admits he initially had reservations, and didn’t come out at first.

“I know the customers were wary too, but it’s trying to build now and get it back up.”

He’s hopeful that the market will get back to where it was, particularly with “people now starting to come out”.

Sian Nye — out shopping with mum Christine Hooper, son Louie Harding and niece Maisie Kew — is happy to have a new Sunday market after the closure of her hometown market in Dagenham.

Tony Geary pictured beside his fashion stall. Tony - a trader for 18 years - says the weather is crucial to ensuring the success of the market. Picture: Ken MearsTony Geary pictured beside his fashion stall. Tony - a trader for 18 years - says the weather is crucial to ensuring the success of the market. Picture: Ken Mears

Both she and Christine say that Romford already seems busier, which “can only be a good thing”.

The Recorder caught up with the pair as they shopped at Tony Geary’s stall.

A trader of 18 years, Tony believes the success of the market is down to one key factor: “That big yellow thing in the sky.”

The sun brings the customers out, he says, pointing to the throngs of people walking through the market.

Though there is no doubt that the sun plays its part, community and conversation is what truly draws people in.

For the traders, money comes and goes.

For the customers, bargains come and go.

That’s not what they missed during lockdown; they missed the buzz, and they’re delighted that it’s back.


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