A weekly market based in the Market Tower in central Lewes, where 15 -20 traders sell local produce. Our aim is to provide good value, fresh food from Lewes and beyond as well as offer enterprise opportunities for local growers, producers and individuals.
Late in 2009 the Food Group of Transition Town Lewes was approached by the chair of the Lewes Town Partnership who suggested that they contacted the chief executive of Lewes District Council, with a view to taking up an irresistible offer of using the derelict Market Tower in the centre of town as a food market. The Food Group presented the Lewes District Council with a proposal to run the market and eventually negotiated a lease for up to 3 days a week, at a peppercorn rent and rates during the start-up period.
The Market Tower had been built in 1792 specifically to accommodate a food market but it closed in 1897. In 1919 the Womens’ Institute opened what is usually recognised as the first WI market nationally in the Market Tower. The WI Market ran from the Market Tower till 1991. Since 1991 the Market Tower had fallen into disrepair and until the Lewes Food Market opened it was only was being used as a cut-through.
By January 2010 a team of 10 had formed and met weekly to get the Market off the ground. During that phase they formed a non-profit Community Interest Company with seven directors, who still meet regularly. They advertised widely for, and appointed, a part-time market manager, who now oversees the project. They were helped with marketing and start-up shortfall with a grant from The Chalk Cliff Trust and Lewes Town Council. Lewes District Council undertook all the repairs and cleaning.
The market was launched on July 9th 2010 and Old Gabriel the Tower Bell rang out to announce the event. There was music, free beer, juice and food and an official opening speech from our MP, Norman Baker.
One of the key aims of the Lewes Local, the Community Interest Company is to attract buyers from low-income households and the next phase of development will investigate how this will be done – the CIC has, for example, registered to belong to the Healthy Start Voucher Scheme and will be looking into ways of promoting this support for young children.
Although it’s early days, there are enough core customers and even more interested stallholders to keep the market financially viable through the winter.
Since the Food Market opened, The Market Tower is now also being used as a venue for other organisations – the Octoberfeast’s new apple press and cooking demonstrations were hosted there – and there is scope to open it on other days of the week.