Repairing Market Cart Wheels

A typical set of wheels in for repair

As a wheelwright I repair lots of wheels, which include Traditional Market Cart Wheels, and Costermonger cart wheels. All wheels come with their own challenges but market cart wheels come with added extra.

Under restoration reusing all the parts we can

When Markets carts were an everyday sight at markets the stall holder would rent the cart for the day, from a local carriage master. Each market would have a local firm usually a family whose business it was building, maintaining, and hiring out market carts to their market. To differentiate their carts from their competitors in the next market, they would carve the name of their firm on the wheels, usually in a very distinctive script.

J Tapper a firm who supplied the Carts for Lambeth Market

When we are restoring Market Cart wheels, the felloes ( the wooden rim sections) are usually the first to rot and therefore need replacing which means they need the name carved back on them in the same distinctive script

Felloes replaced with new carving
Ready to go back to the customer

In the case of the wheels shown I was asked to retain parts where I can and replace where necessary  sufficient to allow the market cart to be used again. Two of the hubs were replaced, all of the felloes and a couple of spokes, and then they are returned to the customer for painting.

If you have wheels that need repairing do get in touch, if you would like to see examples of some of the new carts I build have a look here 

A Traditional Market Cart

My latest video which is posted today explains the process behind making a Traditional Market Cart in this case a Costermongers Barrow. There are really two types of Market Cart. The Four wheel Market stall, and the two wheel Costermongers Barrow.

There is a long and interesting history about costermongers and you read about it on my blog www.tomgreencraft.com they were the for runners of what we now knows as the pearly kings and Queens, based in the street markets of London

The Traditional Cart has a traditional colour scheme. Green for the body and red for the wheels, although these can be made in any colour scheme. In the video I have taken the traditional idea forward and added decoration in the form of pin striping and scalloped edges, as a way of expanding my skills. When you watch the video the striping of the wheels section is painful for me to watch. I know how it ends but I still find myself holding my breath to see if the two ends meet up.

The other variation from a traditional market cart on this one is the addition of Solid Rubber Tyres. A Traditional Market Cart would be plain iron shod however in discussion with fellow wheelwrights – we are a very small but friendly community I decided to use rubber. Should I ever decide  to use the cart indoors, plain Iron wheels would likely damage the floor, which wouldn’t make me very popular. Therefore it makes sense to spend the extra and fit solid rubber.

I do make the wheel Costermongers carts and four wheel Market Stalls for customers. They can be made in any size and colour scheme, with or without decorations. For further details get in touch. Email

A signpost to show you the Way!

The completed signs

A typical project for us is the one we have just installed today at Canary Wharf, a customer we have served for many years.

They are having a trendy “Urban Food Festival” and wanted a free standing sign post, to act as a focal point, and to give directions to approx. 20 destinations. They wanted it to look modern, urban, whilst at the same time reminiscent of those sign posts you see at tourist destinations with multiple signs pointing in all different directions telling you how far it is too New York, or Basingstoke.

It had to be Free standing onto a solid floor, assembled in a few hours ideally without expensive access equipment, and able to act as a central support for overhead festoon lighting. Oh and by the way you have a 10 days to design and build it.

Now whilst we don’t aim to be signpost manufacturers we do understand temporary structures. Therefore we designed an Urban Themed structure manufactured by us from welded steel lattice, 4mts high, which is self supporting with 2 x 150kg water weights. Built in several sections it can be easily assembled by 2 people in a couple of hours, and yet still fits into the back of a medium sized van for transport. The signs supplied in bright modern colours, which are fixed in site are reusable, so once this event is finished the whole structure is taken down, put into our stores, and then gets reused next time, albeit with different wording.

the customer was delighted and we are rather proud of this one.

The end result

Repairing Wooden Wheels

I frequently get asked to repair wooden carriage wheels, and they are always a voyage of adventure as you never know what your going to find, which also makes it the hardest to price, which is another problem as everyone wants to know before you start what its going to cost.

A broken spoke

A typical example would be the wheel in the picture which came in to have a broken spoke replaced. In order to replace the spoke you have to first remove the rubber tyre, steel rim, and a section of felloe to get to it. Usually at this point I discover all manner of issues, and that the old time craftsmen where just as capable of a “bodge Job” as modern ones.

So the blue wheel pictured illustrates this perfectly. It came in with a broken spoke which turned out to be rotten and riddled with wood worm to a point where the wood crumbled away when touched. The Carriage had obviously not moved for a while and water had got into the joint between felloes and spokes, causing the felloes to swell and also rot along with the end of several spokes. Our tale of woe continues as the wheel I suspect originally from America  with steam bent felloes covering 7 spokes each, rather than the European Sawn felloes which conventionally bridge 2 spokes, had previously been worked on, and one half of the wheel steamed felloes had been replaced with sawn, some of which were solid and some rotten, all of which had been hidden under many layers of paint.

To cut a long story short I ended up replacing several spokes, most of the felloes, but retained the hub, rubber tyre and steel rim which were refitted. Once its had  a new coat of paint its good to go, back on the carriage.

The finished wheel before the tyre is fitted