Restoring a Fruit and Veg Cart

I consider myself to be a “Generalist” wheelwright, I make a wide range of wooden wheels. It all depends upon what my customers bring me, one week its a carriage wheel, next week its a cannon, having said that I am becoming known for my work on Market carts and Barrows. So much so I have a new website to showcase this side of my work. The majority of customers want either a sympathetic restoration or a new cart, but occasionally I get asked to transform one into something different, which is what this project is all about.

For this project I was asked to transform a vintage Fruit and Veg stall, which had seen better days, and had been in use at Portobello Road Market in London for many years. My customer wanted it transformed into a Mobile Oyster bar, complete with fold out counters, built in electrics with themed lighting, and new wooden wheels fitted with rubber tyres.


The cart arrived at my workshop in a selection of pieces. In order to minimise transport costs, the roof sections which were falling apart had been cut off. The sloping display was rotten, as it turned out was pretty much all of the superstructure.

The cart would have originally been built and operated by a local Family company who supplied the traders at a market. The traders would then rent the stall by the day from a local yard. I have never established whether the local company made their own carts, or brought them in. whilst there common standards in shape, size etc you do come across minor differences in design, which leads me to suggest they all made their own, and I do know of a number of such firms who certainly had the craft capacity to do so. However you will also discover that each company carved their name, and the market they served on the wheels, and on various points of the body, and they all seem to use a standard very flowery italic style script, which points to a central carver, or a factory style.

New Wheels with market name carved in

As can be seen by the first photo, the cart arrived with a strange combination of wheel styles, so the first job was to replace them, making sure to carry on the tradition of carving the name of the owner and name of the market into the wheels.

As you will see from the YouTube video the cart was then stripped down to the chassis and then completely rebuilt . Many component parts such as the roof stays, which years ago would have been off the shelf ironmongers components, had to be replaced, a chance for a bit of blacksmithing. Luckily I do have my own forge.

In the pictures below you can see the finished cart, resplendent in its new Dark Blue livery with red pinstriped wheels. Its covered by a new fold out roof which extends over the fold out counters, covering the nautical themed lighting and installed electrics. Now completed its returned to Portobello Road Market, and is already pulling a crowd in its new guise as a Mobile Oyster Bar. Why not go and see it, and even try an oyster, you will be more than welcome.

This entry was posted in antique, blacksmith, carriage, costermonger, craft, design, Diy, food, heritage, heritage craft, heritagecraft, hipster, history, instragram, lighting, London, London Markets, market cart, retail, tom green, tradition, traditional, Uncategorized, wheelright, wheelwright, wood, work, youtube and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Restoring a Fruit and Veg Cart

  1. Ruth Barber says:

    Hi I inherited a fruit and veg cart/barrow – probably dates back to the 50s. I want to have it restored. I live in Newcastle upon Tyne. Any advice please. Thanks Ruth

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