North Devon in 100 Objects: 69. John Squire’s Pannier Basket

A traditional pannier basket.

In 2005 Barnstaple Pannier Market celebrated its 150th anniversary.  The enormous building was designed by Borough Surveyor R.D. Gould.  Together with Butchers Row, the market brought the sale of fresh produce into a single area in the town.

Barnstaple’s traditional market day was Friday, when farmers bought and sold stock at the Cattle Market.  Their wives would bring in produce in large square baskets like this.  Propped with a stick, the lid became a convenient surface for laying out goods for sale.

This account is from the 1950s.

“Even today the local farmers’ wives cannot wean themselves from the pleasure of sitting in their shawls for a day’s gossip by their stall… In the old days they would bring in their butter, cream, eggs and poultry, and a discriminating buyer would have the choice of twenty varying shades of butter, ranging from deep gold to the palest off-white, and a similar range in the thickness of the clotted cream.  But such produce is now forbidden, and the farmer’s wife finds it difficult to cover her stall, though in the spring she still brings bunches of Lenten lilies (wild daffodils); and later in the summer the raspberries are heaped on cool cabbage leaves and the strawberries in leaf-lined punnets. Even in the winter they will try to pay for their bus fare into town by bringing in a few jars of delicious pickled red cabbage or shallots.”

This basket was given to the museum by John Squire, whose mother used to bring produce for sale in the market.

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