The history of the Barrowmen / Market Porters

The iconic two-wheeled carts still seen at wholesale markets are market porters (alternatively known as Banksmen) barrows used to deliver produce from the market stand to the loading point of someone’s lorry / van.

 A selection of Barrows from the Birmingham Wholesale Market
A selection of Barrows from the Birmingham Wholesale Market

Despite the increased use of Fork lift Trucks and powered carts they are still very much in use at Wholesale markets throughout the country and the Birmingham Wholesale market still has a number with many having been in use for over 100 years.

The reason they have not been easily replaced is simply down to the design perfected over decades that allows a heavy load to be moved with reasonable force due to the counterbalance of the barrows. The springs meant that stuff wouldn’t vibrate and fall off on the rough & cobbled streets of earlier years.

A seasoned porter can get circa 50 boxes of oranges on a single barrow if loaded correctly. It really is an art and dependent upon knowing the produce and type of container.
The aim once loaded is of course to pick it up and move without tipping it. If you manage to tip it up it still results in much comment and disparaging remarks from fellow porters.

At one time the porters would have to own a porter licence and would be paid by the customer per job, but today the porters are employed by companies within the market.

Roddy, Barrowman maintenance man ensures the Barrows are all up and running
Roddy, Barrowman maintenance man ensures the Barrows are all up and running

Birmingham Wholesale Market Opening Day

Birmingham Wholesale Market Company Ltd enjoyed a fantastic opening event on the 5th October. This was the official opening and a chance to tour Birmingham’s new £50 million Wholesale Market and celebrate a successful start to this exciting new chapter in the Market’s story.

Visitors enjoyed sampling the variety of food that was available some of which was prepared by Michelin starred chefs. They got to sample the huge range of delicious fresh produce available at the market each day and enjoy the musical entertainment from around the globe.

Councillor Ian Ward alongside Chris Bavin (star of Britain’s Best Home Cook, Eat Well for Less? and Tomorrow’s Food) did the official countdown the opening.

Join TV chef (star of Britain’s Best Home Cook, Eat Well for Less? and Tomorrow’s Food) Chris Bavin for the official opening of the new purpose-built facility.

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