Neal Allen Burt

My Place | Sandbach

In an era of globalisation, Sandbach needs to look to its market to secure its future, writes Neal Allen-Burt of Sheppard Robson.

For the past 12 years the Cheshire market town of Sandbach has been home to me and my family.

I actually come from a long line of Cheshire farmers, but that way of life declined during my parent’s generation and I spent a more modern childhood growing up in the commuter town of Wilmslow before moving to Manchester to go to University, where I have worked ever since.

Despite the passage of time there is one constant which links Cheshire’s farming villages, commuter and market towns and the city: the railway. In particular the Crewe-Manchester railway line.

For nearly 200 years, the railways have been a defining force in the mobilisation of the masses, helping to define our urban landscapes and Sandbach, like many other settlements along its line, greatly benefited from the improved connection that it bought.

In 1837 in nearby Crewe, a station was built; one of the most historically significant. Its purpose was to link the four largest cities of England (sound familiar?) and in doing so it became the first long-distance railway in the world.

The opening of the Sandbach railway, five years later, came the chance to share in the prosperity of the nation. But it didn’t just open up the possibility of commercial gain, it also saw great philanthropic acts. Wealthy benefactors such as Rev John Armistead, a hugely energetic, progressive and socially active individual had a transformative effect on Sandbach, building churches, almshouses, schools, and critically, a market hall, many of which stand in the town today.

Leap forward to today and the prevalence of out-of-town and online retail, has led to a decline in Sandbach’s high streets, and with it, its market.

Gone are the days of philanthropists investing in civic infrastructure and a bustling marketplace. Instead, with a population four times what it was in the Industrial Revolution, we are left with an under-used town centre, an over-stretched rail network and markets that are no longer keeping pace with modern life.

If Crewe finally gets its HS2 station, then maybe the railway will again bring with it the prosperity of the past; but major infrastructure investment alone is not enough. Sandbach must capitalise on the growth of Crewe, but in doing so must also address the core of what has defined the town for the past 440 years, its market.

In a world of globalisation, local needs have become secondary. Our reliance on the convenience of online retail has decimated marketplaces of old, which have struggled to keep pace. But it is exactly why a marketplace is a ‘place’, located in and physically connected to a town, which makes them so important to their communities.

Monthly artisan markets are a positive start; but alone they are simply an attraction and they the traditional weekly market continues to decline.  The successful market hall transformations of Altrincham, Stockport and the Mackie Mayor are exciting, but it’ll be interesting to see if they can they survive the in the longer term.

So how can this be done? We need investment, we need innovative thinking. We certainly need a vision. There’s one thing for certain; now more than ever, Sandbach needs its market.

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What a load of rubbish. How on earth can you compare Altrincham and Makie Mayor with Sandbach….

Sandbach Market Hall is small and reflects the size of the town.

By Graham

Sorry but thought that part of the heritage of Sandbach was from Foden and ERF truck manufacturing and not from the railways. Railway station being in Elwoth (as well as ERF). JH

By John Hopkins

Sandbach is not a railway heritage town. Sandbach was built on it’s lorry engineering industry. Fodens and ERF employed 5,000 between them in their heyday in Sandbach. Fodens built lorries and other vehicles for 150 years and ERF nearly as long. They were overwhelmingly the towns major employers for that time and the town grew around them. The arrival of the M6 also made Sandbach a bit of a car commuter town.

By billy

A very naïve article from someone who doesn’t know the town. Ask any old Sandbachian and they will tell you they rather like it the way it is right now…! Its a Cheshire market town not a Manchester suburb ….

By Stephen Wade

Half the problem with Sandbach has been its determination to hang on to a Thursday market which has been out of date and under used for 30 years plus , no one wants to buy half the junk the market sells and it ruins the vital parking for the local traders , the market has brought the town down , not assisted it .

By Anonymous

Historically and factually complete and utter rubbish! Has the author been to Sandbach? Stick to farming!

By Sam

As a long standing market trader who lives in sandbach the decline of markets is nation wide due to out of town retail parks, supermarkets and the Internet, but markets are very important for the community to meet and chat . Altrincham market is not the answer as it is just an eating place or expensive artisan events, keep it real !!

By Mrs H

I worked in Sandbach for nearly 35years at fodens and a foden agent its got nothing what’s so ever to do with trains trucks yes with ERF it was the biggest employer of those companies he doesn’t now what he’s talking about. I think
he’s got mixed up with Crewe.

By Brooky

I would like to say that Sandbach is a market town and Sandbach wasn’t built up on the railway heritage as this was crewe. I don’t know where this guy has got his info from but I take it not locally. When I was at the local Sandbach schools we were told in our history lesson’s that Sandbach the market town.

By Rob well

Does the author have any constructive suggestions as to how the weekly market could be improved and rejuvenated?

By Helen Charles

It being Thirsday today I walked through Sandbach market this morning on the way to opening my shop on the High Street. The market was bustling with people, weather being lovely today, may have improved the attendees, there is a big increase on market days of the amount of people coming into town, this is noticeable to me. I am not saying it is like previous years gone by, but as a shop owner I do see an increase of people using the town on a Thursdsy.
As well as the Market needing to bring people into town ro survive so do us independently owned shops, but I am a bit surprised at the writers comments on using Crewe to assist our town, as Crewe is dying at a faster rate percentage wise than Sandbach. The internet and modern shopping practices has had a huge affect on all High Streets but Sandbach is a town that can boast more independent shop owners than some and customers always comment what a lovely experience they have when visiting our High Street due to this.

By Miss L Flaxman

What a load of ill researched tosh Sandbach was
here long before the railways Sandbach is based on on farming and brewing and the railway doesn’t really come to Sandbach it certainly does nothing to connect the rest of the villages in Cheshire. What churches did the reverend Armitstead build (none), and the town hall had nowt to do with him either, my family made the bricks.So like others (many of whom did not have the dubious privilege of going to university)
1) Don’t research
2) Go to print
3) Reap the whirlwind

By George Wood

Having been to Sandbach market today and talking to the friendly market stall holders I was horrified to learn that the cafe in the market gave it’s notice in today. I was told by two stall holders that the cost of the rent which is £80 a day is just NOT possible to be viable. How can they compete? How can they make a profit? Would it not be better to reduce the rent to a minimum to keep the beautiful historic market town alive and prosperous. Their support is desperately needed before it disappears.

By Dianne

You’re not allowed to say how you feel about Sandbach markets unless you are heaping congratulations & praise on those who designed the current very dull set up. There’s the odd stall of interest but there’s a right load of tat. The indoor market has one stallholder who freely admits he takes two stalls as they are so cheap, to keep himself busy in retirement – a great social benefit personally for him, but nobody really wants the stuff. I keep trying my best to support the market traders, I have money to spend, but it’s not made easy – please make it better. Traders get in a tiz sometimes about not being supported, but traders need to listen to themselves & consider how unreasonable that is – we can each have what we think is a great idea but if people don’t want to buy ‘our idea’ in sufficient numbers, it’s no more than a hobby… that is likely to cost, not benefit you and people looking for products to buy give up trying. Consumers don’t owe them a living.
I DO support local businesses whenever I can and I don’t think ‘the High Street’ is too bad – although the commercial la boutique market seems just to be a swap of failed tenants or somewhere for bored traders to hang out.
This article actually wasn’t comparing Altrincham’s market etc to Sandbach, was it, ‘Graham’? (although some locals have tried & been shot down). It was trying to ask, even if Sandbach markets improve to the best version they can be, will it work? A good question.
There’s a monthly maker’s market that is lovely, but although the traders pay its organiser who in turn pays an event license fee to Cheshire East Council, Sandbach gets nothing. There’s a guy who organises record fairs – & event sales like that DO have a place. There are other event sales, and Christmas Markets etc & the new local councillors are trying hard to make sense of what’s wrong & to make improvements – but most won’t condemn the very boring ‘new’ indoor market or sprawl of stalls dotted here and there (and still on carparks) that has become the outdoor offer on Thursday & Saturday. They & ‘Old Sandbachians’ are fiercely protective of the uninviting mess. The cobbles need fixing (re-laying) & that beautiful space, along with the indoor halls should be the focus. Start again Sandbach, get rid if the shoddy stripes & be open to criticism because if you refuse & the old guard remain stuck in their ways, the demise will be even quicker – soon you will be paying people to run a stall.
It’s this type of comment that sums it up, groan…
“Ask any old Sandbachian and they will tell you they rather like it the way it is right now…”
Please get some fresh perspective & think outside the box. Play the game of time & change, or shut up shop.

By Anonymous

My point “anonymous” is that ask most people in Sandbach if they like the town and they will say yes …that’s why they live there.
They don’t want do gooders with not even a basic understanding of the history of the town telling them they are out of touch and have to change ..
Why do they ? Because Sandbach doesn’t represent an outsiders view of a trendy suburb of Manchester..?
The town has evolved steadily over the last 150 years and will continue to evolve as the population increases.
I am not for one minute saying the market can’t be better than it is
What I am saying is get your facts straight before you start telling the local community what to do !

By Stephen Wade

The problem is that there is no innovative thinking here… it’s a very generic and broad statement of a place without much in the way of any suggestions as to how to make improvements.

The isolated examples of Altrincham and Makie Mayor are drawn from a middle-class belief that fancy coffee, wine bars and expensive food make a successful place. Is that the case? What about public amenities? Accessibility? Cycle ways? Community spaces? Etc…

The author is a designer and therefore has a responsibility to put forward ideas which improve our built environment and our society…

By Anonymous

We lived in sandbach over 20 years ago and now live in trentham stoke on trent but still pop over to sandbach on a Thursday every few weeks. The demise of the market is very evident and really sad but it’s the same everywhere. We still like to go because there are some lovely independent shops and the town has a community feel still and that’s missing from so many places. The internet has ruined our shopping traditions, even places like Trentham Gardens nearby has shops opening and closing within months on a regular basis ,something which never happened a few years ago, so what chance for the markets? As market shoppers get older , like us, the young shoppers will know only internet speed shopping, so it’s doomed no matter what. Sad but true.

By P Buckley

Sandbach was a truck town with two truck
Manufacturers nothing to do with the railway railway past through granted

By Darren Johnson

I am afraid that Neal is writing about a town which I don’t recognise from his descriptions. As others have said Sandbach has a lorry manufacturing history which is displayed on the wall at the local Aldi. Perhaps he should go and have a look?

By Mike Bond

Who is this young farmer? Obviously knows nothing about Sandbach. I’ve lived in Sandbach for 50+ years. Although many, many changes, especially the recent new builds and no viable infrastructure to support our towns increasing population, is my main bugbear. I love our little town. I worked at the sewing mill and later at ERF. My family’s (uncles, cousins) also worked for Fodens/ERF. As already said, Sandbach heritage was never Railway. I am proud of our truck heritage. Regarding the market, yes it is a sad sight to what it was but so are other markets. Long gone are the days when we were like sardines walking round the market stalls. I’d often walk round the market to catch up with friends, chat to the stall holders. It was a great community. The annual Elizabethan market was one of my favourite. There were a variety of stalls, kiddies rides, Morris dancers etc. People would come far and wide. Even the Transport festival is not what it was. I don’t know if it due to (gone mad) health and safety issues or because of the potential damage to the high street. Yes, internet, retail parks has a great negative impact on our town centres. Each town have to come up with ideas and ways to work in these modern times, involve the local people more, especially the younger generation as those that don’t may respect our town more if they have a say and some responsibility. Reduce rent cost, maybe more annual events like the Elizabethan market. We can all work together and have our market town thrive once more.

By Anonymous

I have lived in Sandbach for 120 years and enjoy walking down the street by the sea everyday. The market is a focal point of the community and should be cherished not least because you can always buy a huge pair a white grandma knickers or grab a non working lighter.

The trains helped many a village and towns grow but the supermarket Foden’s also employee many, many local people – who spent money in the market.

And with the comment on the Aldi poster, I’m always too busy looking down the middle isle (of the Market..!)

This article has started a debate about our townscape – community involvement is utmost in gleaning the best out of investment – for all the haters, it’s the stocks for you

By Sandbach born & bred

Sandbach was built on truck manufacturing and yet no transport museum,attracting tourists to the town can only beva good thing.

By Robert Walker

I think there has been a slight over reaction to what this brave young farmer has posted. I agree that his railway hypothesis isn’t altogether water tight, but at least he has the inner strength to share with us all his ideas. Also he has given up his valuable farming time to help give an input into how we can all work together to make our town the best it can be. The high street is in decline but as we wave goodbye to Woolworths we should also give a warm hello to the The Cod Father. This young farmer’s generation holds the key to unlocking the future prosperity of where we live. Good on him and shame on those who won’t listen to a different point of view.

By Sandbach Steve

Am I the only person who thought Sandbach was an iffy service station on the M6? I need to get out more!

By Side Burns

You’re comparing markets/commercial offerings with captive populations of circa 800k against Sandbach of circa 15k.

Railway infrastructure has nothing to do with it.

By Ben White

I’m not old or poor I have the internet and a car. If i’m not working like to go around the Thursday and Saturday market and find there are great bargains to be had. Also see plenty of younger people buying stuff too. I’m sure its not as busy as it was decades ago but it is still surviving. I’m not against the makers market as it brings people in to town, but its not really something i go around often as you’ve seen it once its pretty much the same each time.Not sure if its true but a regular trader told me they don’t pay anything to the council for the makers market stalls but regular market traders always pay.

By Resident

Ref Side Burns, I think possibly you do need to get out more. I would start by getting out to the other services in the area. Iffy is not how I would describe Sandbach services, it’s at least on a par with Knutsford which I find more than adequate. If your journey requires a little motorway r & r may I suggest Keele. A useful tool in remembering this one out of the trio of toilet turn offs is by using the acronym KFC – Keele Fried Chicken and yes, the Colonel is there with his deep fried treats. If you miss it, the so called ‘iffy’ Sandbach services won’t let you down.

By M6 Steve

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