Over Christmas, Bolton Market reported the greatest number of Christmas shoppers in a quarter of a century. TOM MOLLOY went down to see what makes it so special.

BOLTON Market has been in its current location in Ashburner Street since the 1930s.

It was relaunched in its current guise in 2014, following a £5 million revamp.

Since then,it has established itself as one of the premier food markets in the North West.

The market has won a string of awards over the years including the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) Market Innovation of the Year and Innovative Saver of the Year in 2015.

Following the closure of the former Moor Lane bus station in September 2017, trade initially dipped and three stalls - Beauty Bargains, 32 Menswear, and Butty-Licious closed at the start of 2018.

But it seems things are back on the up and in December 2018, Bolton Market reporting the highest number of Christmas visitors for 25 years.

Stallholders sold an estimated 8,000 turkeys and 4,000 mince pies in the run up to the big day.

Michael Evans has worked as a trader on Bolton Market for 40 and runs fish stall MPJ.

For him ‘fresh is best’ and that’s what makes people travel from as far afield as Leeds to buy seafood from him.

He said: “I’ve been here for 40 years. I came down, tried my chances as a Saturday kid, got on and the rest is history.

“We only deal in fresh fish. You have other stalls that may deal in frozen goods but ours is fresh every day.

“People come from Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, all over really.”

Another trader who prides himself on fresh, local produce is Stephen Latham, who has been at Bannister’s Fruit and Veg for half a century.

“Christmas was good this year and for a January, we can’t complain,” he said.

“It quietened a little bit when the bus station shut but I think its on its way back.

“It’s all fresh produce - I travel to farms across Lancashire three times a week to choose it myself.

“Some customers have been coming for as long as I’ve been here, and now their children and grandchildren are also customers.”

One stall-holder who keeps things even closer to home is Alain Job, who owns Cameroonian food stall Nkono. He buys all his ingredients from neighbouring stalls.

Mr Job said: “Business is improving all the time, in fact I’m hoping to expand.

“I’ve introduced African food to a lot of people who had never tried it before and now they love it. More than 90 per cent of my customers are English."

The manager of Bolton Market Peter Entwistle thinks that there’s a sense of tradition about market shopping that people enjoy, especially at Christmas. Although he encourages people to visit all year round.

He said he is also encouraged by the number of traders who have used the market as a starting point and then gone on to open new outlets.

“It’s the natural place to start out because there is a good environment for a new business,” said.

Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, Cllr Nick Peel, added:

“I think it’s the wide range of choice and the quality of fresh produce that make the market such a popular shopping destination.

“When you consider the great bargains and the fact you can get everything you need under one roof, it’s easy to see why it is a favourite with both Bolton residents and visitors alike.

“It’s well regarded by traders too. Businesses like Coffee Grind and Great Ale got their start at Bolton Market."