My latest Video is now available on the Heritagecraft YouTube Channel, which is about the process of restoring a Costermongers Cart
It follows the progress of a Vintage Costermongers cart dating from before the First World War. If you have never come across the term Costermonger, they were effectively Market Porters, lively gregarious characters, who would transport goods from the wholesale markets to the retailers. For more information have a look at some of my previous posts
This particular cart belongs to a elderly gentlemen who before his retirement worked at Spitalfields Market, and it was a gift when he retired. At the time the market was moving from central London to a new sight on the outskirts and these carts were being burnt as they weren’t needed at the new sight. His family had been connected with the market for generations although he had never made it to Market Porter.
In those days jobs in the market were tightly controlled, and you needed a relative in the market to get you a job. Porters were paid by the parcel regardless of the size to take the goods from the wholesaler to the customers vehicle in the car park, they didn’t hang about, and god save anyone who got in the way. However I am told 30 years ago £1000 per week for a porter wasn’t unusual. No wonder the jobs were controlled.
Before my customer was given the cart its clear to see it was a working vehicle, and my customer has had it in his garden for years. So it was in a pretty sorry state.
I have made new wheels for it, repaired and where necessary replaced the rotten woodwork. Repainted in the traditional market cart colours of Red and Green, and added as a request from my customer an elegant touch of yellow in the form of a couple of pinstripes. As you can see from the picture below it came out well.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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 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.