Restoring a Costermongers Barrow

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.

Once this one goes back to my customer, next is a Four Wheel Market Cart.

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2 Responses to Restoring a Costermongers Barrow

  1. Carol Mason says:

    Hi Tom,
    We live in Vancouver, B.C. and have just acquired one of the old market carts.
    My husbands farmer at heart, was outside our local grocery store and noticed a cart sitting off to the side looking rather derelict. He asked the manager if they were getting rid of it and offered to take it off their hands. He was thinking he could use on our little farm in the Okanogan. The manager was very happy to have him take it away:)
    When it arrived at our house in the back of our truck we examined it more closely and realized that it was very old. It’s in really great condition, wheels are fantastic and all the under carriage tight and it still rolls very well.
    My dad was a Londoner so I was familiar with names etc and have probably watched “ My Fair Lady” a thousand times!!!
    So we started to do a bit of research and it’s definitely one of the beautiful old market carts.
    The writing on the side says, “ F Sowle & Son Bombay St. SE 16 On Hire”
    ( I think it says “ Sowle” I’m not 100% sure if it’s a W ?)
    Its a wonderful treasure and reading about the history of these carts has been so interesting. I wish this old cart could talk, it’s certainly seen a lot! I’m so glad we rescued it from possibly ending up in the dump.

    • Tom Green says:

      Thank you for your message, which is a lovely story and I’m delighted to hear you have rescued this cart. I would love to see some pictures. If you can manage that my email is If you need any help you are in a good position as Canada has the only wheelwrights organisation in the world and they have several members in Vancouver . Once again thank you, it’s always nice to hear a story

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