Altrincham Market, Market Street / Greenwood Street, Altrincham, WA14 1SA – Visit Now
The tale of Altrincham Market tells in microcosm the story of British retailing. It started life all bright and shiny: dating back to 1290, it was one of Manchester’s most successful. Then followed decline, with the behemoth Trafford Centre and the latest (current?) recession hastening its demise. Empty shop units sprang up like mushrooms under a diseased tree; shoppers deserted the place – high street, market, the lot. And then came a man with a big idea. He reinvented Alty Market, scrubbed it up, added a whole lot of street food – and about-turned the slow death of this grand old retail dame.
That man was local lad Nick Johnson, formerly of property development company Urban Splash, and while he would be the first to admit we have over-simplified the story ever so slightly, he (and his wife Jenny) can take credit for the relaunch of Altrincham Market last year. They gathered in new traders under the Victorian roof of the covered market, introduced themed weekend markets (such as vintage one weekend, food and drink another), expanded the week-day market onto a nearby street and oversaw the £750,000 renovation of the 19th-century Market House nearby.
Market House now forms the centrepiece of the new market. Inside, five specialist food outlets cluster around communal tables that seat 180. Artisan coffee using Lancaster-blended beans, Honest Crust’s wood-fired pizza, salads, bagels, chocolate and wine served by the glass from Didsbury-based outfit, Reserve, are all on offer; the existence of a small play area for small, playful people (complete with cushions, chalkboards and picture books) explains why the place is packed out with families.
Outside, in the covered market, stallholders sell everything from fresh fish and locally produced cheese to vintage knick-knackery and furniture. More food is available in a seating area here, with a live music stage supplying the soundtrack to the weekend markets.
It is all very enjoyable and it is all very deliberately positioned: the Johnsons are canny enough to understand that a market such as this can’t compete with out of town retail parks, or with online prices. Where Alty Market can compete, though, is in creating an experience; it’s the sort of place you can take the kids, your mum or your partner to. Heck, you can even take your dog. It’s old-fashioned and defiantly local, and it is reinventing the old-fashioned market for a more modern shopper. So what would you rather have – a place that was too busy or a place that was not busy at all?
Opposite the covered market is GreenGinger Fabrics, a traditional haberdashery. Or trot down High Street and you’ll discover a cluster of antique shops, second hand dress agency, Elite, handmade cycles at Starley Bikes and a nice little pub called The Orange Tree; head the other way and you’ll find the Aladdin’s cave-esque Abacus Books. The creatively inclined could try a course at Space for Creation. You’re also not far from Dunham Massey, the National Trust-owned deer park and stately home – always worth a visit and the short walk across fields to gastropub the Swan with Two Nicks.
When to go
We recommend the weekend markets, though they can get busy. Get there early, or make like the market suggests and be prepared to “relax, people watch and enjoy a little more time” (Sat, 9am-5pm, for traditional food stalls, street food, craft, fashion and Sun, 10am-5pm, four specialist markets which rotate weekly). Or try the Twilight Markets (Thu & Fri, 5pm-10pm, in the run up to Christmas only). Market House is open six days (Tue-Sat, 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-6pm).
The best way to get to Altrincham Market is by Metrolink – turn left out of the station, turn right at the traffic lights and walk through the town centre until you reach the market. If you want to drive, parking is free on Sundays (and only 10p an hour through the week).