Restoring a Traditional Market Cart

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The cart as it arrived at the workshop, with the rotten wheel hidden and scaffold plank top

Recently I had the opportunity to restore an original Tappy Market Cart. Historically Market Traders rent their stalls for the day from a local firm, usually a local family who had the rights to supply stalls for that market. The firm would have a local yard, from which each day the traders would pull the stall out to the market, and return them at the end of the day. In between market days the firm would maintain their fleet. So they could differentiate whose stall was whose the firm would carve their name and address onto the wheels, and on various mains beams of the undercarriage.

Tappy was a family of two brothers who supplied the stalls for the famous London Lambeth Walk Market in South London, from their base at 9 Great Newport St and ceased trading in 2001, but their carts keep turning up. This one came from a Client in Lincolnshire, but I do know of some in Canada, so they have spread far and wide. The Family moved to their premises in Newport street after Bomb Damage in the second world war forced them to relocate , so if you find a cart with Newport Street written on then your know its a later cart.

I originally thought each firm made its own carts but having now worked on a number of this type of carts, from a variety of markets whilst there are differences, there are a number of striking similarities, in design. There will have been a common dimension to fit the “standard Market stall Pitch”, The wheels tend to be common sizes which suggest mass production, but the most striking similarity is the font used for the carved hirers name. It is a very distinctive flowery script, particularly the letter H which makes me thing the carts all came from a specialist workshop, with the same carver.

Considering its age and life outside in all weathers this cart was in a fair condition. Two wheels had rotted, both on the same side, which isn’t unusual, so they had to be replaced but as I make wooden carriage wheels that’s not a problem. The issue was replacing the top.

The original top had been replaced by a previous owner with a series of Scaffold boards, which limits its use, so it needed to be upgraded with a proper fitted flat top with a scalloped edging. The top would have had a lip around it but it would have been plain, however the scalloped edge lifts the finish, and allows me to paint some highlights.

Finally the cart is repainted with a specialist High Gloss Enamel Paint, a very tough paint frequently used for steam engines and vintage cars. The traditional colours is Dark Green for the upper parts and red for the Lower sections and the wheels.

At the time of writing this cart is now looking for a good home. If your interested in this one or would like to talk about me making / restoring one for you do get in touch

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