All Things Warrington

Where The Old Fish Market Once Stood
(a poetic tribute to Warrington's old market place)

I thought I'd forgotten my first love
I had just about got to the stage
Where I could drive past her home in the evening
Without thinking on back to the days
To the days when I'd meet her at teatime
From the 4.30 Grappenhall bus
When the girl from the village would greet me
With a smile and a tentative hug

I recall how we'd walk through the precinct
Hand in hand 'til we reached Golden Square
Where we would sit at the statue of Alice
And kick back like we just didn't care
And as the five o'clock rush hurried past us
I remember us falling in love
Right there in that historic quadrant
Where the old fish market once stood

It was the era of Warrington New Town
Eileen Bilton, investment and change
And though some people tried to resist it
It was important that progress was made
And to the town planners' ultimate credit
The shopping mall scheme they approved
Was respectful of time and tradition
And looked lovely at twilight in June

There was the Barley Mow pub in the corner
With its black and white timbered facade
Dating back to the reign of the Tudors
But like a patriarch still standing guard
Over all of the buildings and shopfronts
And the fish market's canopied roof
Where the ghosts of old Warrington gathered
To look back on their town centre roots

There was Boteler, the Lord of the manor
And Beamont, its very first mayor
Kendrick and Priestley, the scholars
And the printer, William Eyres
But as well as the 'Warrington Worthies'
Were people like old Charlie Lee
Who scratched a poem a day on his chalkboard
Whilst selling oysters direct from the sea

And as I sat with my girlfriend and Alice
In that modern day shopper's parade
A scene from the past came upon me
Like a dream in the evening haze
It was a snapshot of life in the old days
With folk working hard to survive
Selling flowers and poultry and clothing
From baskets they held at their side

And though time may have altered the detail
Of the buildings and items for sale
As the twenty-first century beckoned
It was amazing how little had changed
And in that triumph of merged architecture
Where the past and the present embraced
I kissed Bernadette as the sun set
On that wonderful old market place

© Andy Green (2013)

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Old Fish Market Gallery
(Click on the pictures to see a large version of the image)

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I began this lament to a lost love in the early 1990s but never got further than the first two verses. I was inspired to revisit it after my daughter and I stopped off for a bite to eat outside the Barley Mow on a spring afternoon in 2013. I was taken aback by how wonderful the square looked with its mixture of old and new buildings and started thinking about the history of the place. One of my earliest memories was walking through the old fish market with my mum and to this day I can still recall the layout and smells of the large open plan hall. I began to imagine my ancestors standing in the same spot as they went about their daily business. And then I started thinking about others too: ghosts from Warrington’s past such as first mayor William Beamont whose offices were situated alongside the Barley Mow and oyster seller Charlie Lee who had a stall not far from where I was relaxing. Suddenly the rhyme took on a new meaning: as well as being a lament to a lost love it became a celebration of a part of Warrington that remains a focal point for many of its people. It is easy to criticise town planners when they get something wrong but in my opinion they got the redevelopment of the old market place spot on. There can't be many Warringtonians who haven't spent time shopping or relaxing where the old fish market once stood.