Longest-serving Sheffield market traders share memories of old Rag and Tag as Moor Market turns 10

"People used to swarm and stand around us to watch. I had a big crowd all day long.”
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Two of Sheffield’s longest-trading market vendors have looked back on their journeys, from the Rag and Tag as children - both customers and vendors - to still selling at Moor Market today.

Grace Bolsover, owner of Grace’s Fabrics, has been working on the markets for 34 years. Now aged 81, she shows no signs of stopping.

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“It is so boring if I am at home every day. I’m not the kind of woman to sit at home by the fire, you know,” she said.

Grace’s late husband, Malcolm Bolsover, was made redundant from his job as a miner and set her up in business 34 years ago.

The old outdoor Sheaf Market, known as the Rag and Tag.The old outdoor Sheaf Market, known as the Rag and Tag.
The old outdoor Sheaf Market, known as the Rag and Tag.

She said: “He always told me if he ever got any money, then I could be working for myself. He would be proud that it is still going. 

“At first, I thought I didn't like it at all. But my cousin invited me to the market in Leeds, and the fabrics – I just fell in love with them. The next thing, I'm serving customers, and it's not even my shop! I think it’s in my blood.”

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“I think I have been here the longest of anyone - some of the businesses have been trading for longer, but they’ve been passed down the family.”

One of those is K&G Jewellers, owned by Graham Longden, who started working for his father at the Rag and Tag market when he was just 15.

Grace Bolsover, owner of Grace's Fabrics at Moor Market.Grace Bolsover, owner of Grace's Fabrics at Moor Market.
Grace Bolsover, owner of Grace's Fabrics at Moor Market.

The family business, which originally sold household items under the name Arnold & Graham, has been trading for over 100 years.

He said: “There was about ten of us there who used to stand and sell at the Rag and Tag. It was an attraction. People used to swarm and stand around us to watch.

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“They were proper entertainers there, that’s why it was my favourite. You’d get people selling all sorts, and I had a big crowd all day long.”

Possibly in that crowd of customers was a young Grace, who lived close to the Rag and Tag on West Bar.

Sheffield Rag & Tag Market on September 1, 1970Sheffield Rag & Tag Market on September 1, 1970
Sheffield Rag & Tag Market on September 1, 1970

She said: “I spent hours listening to them, even as a little girl of seven or eight years old.

“There was a man called Edward who had a tea set which he used to juggle. You'd watch it for ages waiting for it to drop, but it never did.

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“I would get in trouble with my father for being so long. When I was sent there again, I would still stand there mesmerised for ages.”

Traders moved from the Rag and Tag when it was replaced by the adjoining Sheaf Market in 1973.

Crowds enjoying entertainment at Sheffield's Castle and Sheaf Markets in September 1990Crowds enjoying entertainment at Sheffield's Castle and Sheaf Markets in September 1990
Crowds enjoying entertainment at Sheffield's Castle and Sheaf Markets in September 1990

K&G Jewellers, named after Graham and his wife Kathleen, was surrounded by others going bankrupt there.

Graham said: “The people who used to pitch at the Rag and Tag just weren’t there anymore, it was like walking in a shop. It was difficult to see it go downhill.

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“We are thriving down the Moor. I’ve got really good staff who have been with me over 20 years, and the business doesn’t have to rely on me pitching now.”

The Moor Market, Sheffield city centre.The Moor Market, Sheffield city centre.
The Moor Market, Sheffield city centre.

Before the Moor Market opened, Grace spent 16 years at Crystal Peaks Market, and moved to Castle Market in the mid-2000s.

After a decade at Sheaf Market, Graham also worked at Castle Market, which ceased trading in November 2013.

The Castle Market traders relocated across the city centre to Moor Market which opened in the same month, on November 25.

Moor Market celebrates its ten-year anniversary on Saturday, November 25.Moor Market celebrates its ten-year anniversary on Saturday, November 25.
Moor Market celebrates its ten-year anniversary on Saturday, November 25.
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Grace, who works at Unit 53/54, said: “This lovely new market - I love it here as well. I think I were born to work on the markets.”

Graham, aged 86, has not sold K&G Jeweller's, located at Unit 25/26, because his daughter, Julia, hopes to take over when he retires.

She will be the fourth generation in the family to run the business.