Maidstone market’s thriving return

If you’re in the market for a bargain, head down to Lockmeadow every Tuesday and Saturday.

A month after it reopened, following the coronavirus closure, the historic market has more than set out its stall for the future. With a growing number of traders, shoppers are rediscovering the joys of the hustle and bustle once again.

The national ‘Love your Local’ campaign, coupled with a Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) initiative to offer free pitches to new local producers, has breathed new life into the market which has operated on the riverside site for around 700 years.

Ray Blackwell, who sells a range of sweet treats, has traded at Lockmeadow for more than 15 years. He said: “You want to know what’s special about this place? It’s a community thing, people come here to shop and catch up with friends. I know a lot of them by name and we have a good chat while they’re at the stall. You don’t always get that in busy shops.”

Joining Ray in recent weeks has been Herbert & Ward, one of the UK’s leading coffee roasters. The company has gone from trade supplier to trader in the wake of Covid-19, diversifying into markets for the first time in its 91-year history.

Storm, who is fourth generation in the family business, said: “We supply the likes of coffee shops, farm shops and restaurants but you don’t get the customer feedback you get here. We enjoy the interaction with people at the market and on our social media, and are getting regulars coming back to the stall every week to buy their favourite or try something new.”

Also getting a slice of the action is Marco from Pizza Per Te. One of the market’s catering concessions, the mobile pizzeria tops off any visit to Lockmeadow. He said: “This is my third week here, it’s been fun. Lots of people popping by, asking questions and buying pizza. It’s all made fresh and I’ve got margherita and chorizo, as well as a vegetarian and a vegan option.”

To provide a safe alfresco shopping experience, stalls are spaced out in accordance with government guidelines and shoppers are encouraged to socially distance and use hand sanitiser on arrival and departure.

The market is a few minutes from the town centre, via Mill Street and Lockmeadow Millennium Bridge.

Maidstone Market is open Tuesday and Saturday each week, between 7am and 1.30pm. It is located at Lockmeadow on Barker Road, Maidstone.