Market Weighton - the heart of East Yorkshire

William Bradley the Yorkshire Giant was a very prominent Weighton resident

William Bradley the Yorkshire Giant was a very prominent Weighton resident - Credit: Joan Russell

Is ‘the heart of East Yorkshire’ still getting pulses racing? Jo Haywood finds out

It should come as no surprise that Market Weighton is a successful retail town. It has, after all, had 763 years of practice.

The town – christened ‘The Heart of East Yorkshire’ by Weighton Area Regeneration Partnership in 2003 – was granted a royal charter by Henry III in 1251 giving it market town status (with a market on a Thursday then, and on a Friday now).

During the 18th century, the town’s September fair was said to be ‘probably the greatest sheep fair in the kingdom with 70,000 to 80,000 animals annually exposed for sale’. But how is modernday Weighton faring? Is it still the beating heart of East Yorkshire, making the most of its conveniently equidistant location between York and Hull, or has its pulse starting to slow a bit over time?

Chris Clubley, local estate agent and joint chairman of the recently-established Rotary Club, believes that Market Weighton’s strong sense of community is still very much alive and kicking, partly fuelled by families who have called the town home for generations.

‘There’s a real sense that people want to give something back,’ he explained. ‘Our community has looked after us and now we’re repaying the compliment and looking after it.’

The new Rotary Club group – a more localised, breakaway branch of what was previously Pocklington & Market Weighton Rotary Club – has been specifically set up with a view to attracting younger members keen to help their community. It’s already had 28 applications for membership with a further six pending – a grand total when so many other groups appear to be struggling to maintain active membership levels.

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‘The willingness is definitely there,’ said Chris, an enthusiastic ambassador for all things Weighton. ‘We just have to shed some of the formality of traditional Rotary meetings. And if that means members wearing jeans and trainers to meetings at the Bay Horse, then so be it. It’s not what you wear, it’s what you contribute that matters.’

Life-long Market Weighton resident Winston Hagston can more often than not be found resplendent in his butcher’s whites and stripy apron behind the counter of his family shop, which has just celebrated 17 years on the High Street.

He’d already had 20 years’ experience as a butcher – ten in his home town of Market Weighton – before setting out on his own in 1997, so he felt confident there was a market for his traditional style of meat preparation.

‘It was a big step, and an expensive one, but I felt I was upholding a long-held tradition by sticking to tried and tested methods,’ he said.

The shop had actually been a butcher’s in the early years of the 20th century, a fact that Winston celebrated by designing decorative tiles depicting the previous incumbents. He took his inspiration from a photograph given to him by Catherine Newbury, whose parents ran the shop. She died last year, well into her nineties, but her likeness remains for all to see when they pop in to Hagston’s for a pound of sausages.

Winston is the first to admit that butchery is a tough old business now, with pressure coming from supermarkets, online delivery and our seemingly inescapable time-poor culture.

‘Market Weighton is expanding rapidly and lots of houses are being built,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately house prices have risen so young couples both have to work full-time to pay the mortgage. This means they just don’t have time for a high street shop.’

But there is some light on the horizon as customers make a noticeable shift in focus from cheap, ask-no-questions meat to quality, traceable products prepared by professionals at the top of their game.

‘People seem to like the fact that I’m old-fashioned in a good way,’ said Winston. ‘I follow traditional butchery methods to the letter, buying quality meat from local suppliers and letting it hang.

‘Customers definitely want to know where their meat comes from and that it has been meticulously cared for every step of the way. People are becoming more choosy, which is a good thing for butchers like me and for the customers themselves as all that care and attention is reflected in the flavour.’

While Winston is one of the town’s staunchest stalwarts, Bev Kendra is one of Market Weighton’s newest newcomers, having taken over the Londesborough Arms Hotel less than four months ago.

The listed former coaching inn, which dates back to the early 18th century, was looking a bit tired when Bev and her daughter Steph took over on December 20th, but it’s perking up nicely now.

‘Locals are starting to come back because of the work we’ve done,’ she said. ‘I think they’re happy to see how much we care about the place and want it to succeed. To be honest, the levels of support we’ve received have been very touching.’

Bev took on the hotel as a challenge when her younger daughter, Samantha, left home for university. She already had one business – NRH Engineering in Seaton Ross, producing agricultural machinery – but wanted a new venture in a completely different field.

‘I always thought I was happy at home on my own, but it turns out I love talking to people and socialising,’ she said. ‘I now know what people mean when they talk about mixing business with pleasure.’

Bev and Steph are going to open up the hotel during the day in a bid to encourage older local residents to pop in for coffee, a bite to eat and a chat, and they’re also introducing a second bar specialising in real ale to appeal to a wider evening market.

‘Market Weighton is a town with real heart,’ said Bev. ‘And we want this place to be back again where it belongs, right at the centre of the community.’