TO SAY the train service in Bolton is poor would be described as an understatement by most. Years of poor service and “havoc” on the rails have meant one Bolton Market stall is closing up for good.

Mary Naylor finds out more.

A MARKET stall that can trace its roots to a cholera epidemic in 1868 is shutting up shop . . . and the ongoing problems with the trains are to blame, says its owner.

Lawrence Charles Hool, aged 69, is closing his shutters for the last time at the end of September. And he claims “havoc” with the trains over the past three years is partly to blame because it has stopped shoppers coming to town.

John Hool Herbalist moved to Bolton Market, in Ashburner Street when the old hall became Market Place about 13 years ago.

He took over the business from his dad, also John, in 1978, pictured outside the old stall on a photo that sits beside Mr Hool's till.

READ MORE: 'Poor trains bound to impact town'

He said: “When I took over it was bustling, Bolton was a real hub. It was heaving with people from all over the North West. There were only two like it with a grand Victorian market hall, Bolton and Leeds.

Mr Hool said his first day at the business was aged 10 days, in his pram at the stall.

Now aged almost 70, he said: "I would have kept going if we were busy.”

But he explained: “It has been havoc with the trains. You can’t come in on Saturdays and we have lost all our trade from outside Manchester.

“People would come from Manchester and Salford and further afield.

“So many have closed in Bolton and I’m sure it’s to do with the havoc from the trains.”

Mr Hool said councillors have said people can still come into the town centre on the bus.

However he does not believe this is practical given how long it would take.

READ MORE: The future of the town centre

He said people who spent 20 minutes on a train from Manchester would not be willing to spend almost an hour on a bus to come to Bolton Market.

Mr Hool added: “I had people in this morning who were saying they had not been since last year. I can’t survive on that. It’s time I called it a day.”

John Hool Herbalist was set up by the first John Hool, the current Mr Hool’s grandfather in 1872.

Mr Hool started work there as a boy in his father’s stall under the clock inside Bolton Market Hall. Next to his chair is a print by a local artist of how the Market Hall used to look.

Mr Hool’s grandfather died during the war and his father took over the shop, however there has been a herbalist by the name of Hool in Bolton much longer.

Mr Hool showed The Bolton News a copy of Common Plants and their Uses in Medicine published in 1922, written by none other than a Richard Lawrence Hool.

In in Mr Hool pointed out a section about a herb called purple loosestrife which Richard Hool described himself selling in July 1868 in the middle of a “raging” cholera epidemic in Bolton.

The book says the flower Purple Loosestrife was a “means of saving hundreds of people from death by cholera”.

Mr Hool will be sad to leave Bolton Market and will take many fond memories with him.

He said: “I love this market. The food is good and it’s a lovely atmosphere and there’s a great variety of food with seasonal stuff coming in, and the fish market is great.”

John Hool Herbalist will shut on September 30.


A short recap of Bolton's rail problems

BEFORE the May timetable change hit national headlines rail users in Bolton have been experiencing problems.

Much of the recent disruption has been caused by Network Rail's Great North Rail Project (GNRP).

The Preston to Manchester line is the fourth part of the project to electrify the network and is two years behind schedule.

Old mine shafts, veins of sand discovered during the Farnworth Tunnel work, varying densities of rock and a bridge collapse in Moses Gate have all held up the project to improve Bolton's train service.

Until this work is completed Bolton cannot take advantage of Northern Rail's new bigger trains.

Passengers in Bromley Cross and Hall i’th’ Wood will not see their line electrified but will see new, larger trains expected to ease their overcrowding problems.

When asked about Mr Hool shutting up shop a Network Rail spokesperson said: “Network Rail is investing in the North. The GNRP is a multi-billion-pound programme of improvements, transforming train travel for customers in the North. There will be 2,000 extra services each week allowing 40,000 more passengers to travel each day. The North is already seeing improved transport links between towns and cities, more trains with more seats, running more quickly and more reliably.

“We are in the final stages of a complete route upgrade along the Manchester to Preston corridor. This work will be complete in early November, meaning weekend services through Bolton will resume.”