My grans old house was situated slat bang in the centre of Uttoxeter. If you left the property from the back and walked down to the bottom of the garage access road on your left lay a cattle grid and one of the entrances to the cattle market.
Crossing the grid and ignoring the warnings about getting your leg trapped and therefore amputated (thanks for that Dad) you were transported into a living, breathing piece of history. A dusty stone based car park gave way to a series of cattle holds, sheep on your right, cows and bulls further down on your left past the auction house from which a constant babble of rapid incoherences contiunally streamed through a tinny PA system. I heard one time a bull had escaped and ran amok, so a walk through the cattle market to shop at Woolworths (another dynasty gone) was met with some trepidation. Just in case it happened again I had my own escape plan which involved climbing on one of the fences and hanging on for dear life.
There was a small pub that only opened on market days sat just behind the sheep pens, we went in once. It was full of sullen, rosey cheeked green wellington wearing folk and a heady mix of Sunday Dinner, wax jackets and manure hung in air. A fragrance I can still seemingly recall at will, and a fragrance that strangely I miss.
There were a few other buildings, a small bargain type shop and a food outlet perhaps, I forget.
Its a housing estate now, little if any evidence remains as to its former standing in the town. I was speaking to a relative recently and he remarked at what a shell of a town Uttoxeter had become. At first I did not think it a fair assessment, plenty of new builds, a retail park comprising all the big outlet chains, modern cinema and bowling facilities same as any other middling to large town.
Same as any other.
And he was right. The cattle market may not of been progressive, or a desirable asset to consider moving into a town for, but it was the heart of the town, and the heart of the local farming community. Sure at the time my naivity led me to believe the farmers were buying and selling cattle to each other as a kind of Swap meet, and the grim truth was best left hidden from my young mind. Sure those surely portly types never uttered a word to us town folk passing through, or even to each other but that sun baked manure drenched Saturday afternoon was a part of English Culture that has sadly faded into memory. I for one miss those days, childishly thinking they would be around forever, and am glad to hear I am not alone.