Malton, a traditional Yorkshire market town

PUBLISHED: 21:39 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 19:33 10 April 2016

Malton market in full swing

Malton market in full swing

Chris Titley visits a traditional Yorkshire market town with its eyes on the future. PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

John Woodall splicing sisal rope in his family storeJohn Woodall splicing sisal rope in his family store

As for Malton Museum, Mr Bushell is all for it - but not necessarily in its current location. 'It's an iconic building right in the centre of the town. The museum figures are something like 4,000 visitors a year. After 20 years, we think we ought to stop and say, is that the right use for that building?' One thing everyone is agreed upon is Malton's special atmosphere. 'Something not always appreciated by the people who live here - because by definition, they don't live anywhere else - is that Malton's a real community,' Mr Bushell said. 'Lots of other towns have lost their way but Malton hasn't. It has a very nice feel to it.

'We're keen to highlight that difference. Malton is a very good place to come to. It's got some very distinct, independent retailers. 'We need to make visitors aware of that, and reengage our natural customers - make them realise that a day out in Malton is a pleasurable thing to do.' With so many people caring so deeply about the town, you can only be hopeful about its future. Auctioneer Philip Place sums it up when asked to name Malton's greatest strength. 'It's the community itself,' he says.

The sign says G Woodall & Sons. But it's actually George Woodall's greatgrandson John who now runs the family business in Malton market place. Inside you'll find all manner of specialist items on sale: cattle and sheep tags, lambing ropes, dehorners, hoof knives and goat chains.

There are collars for your ferret, combs for your horse and rings for your pig. Everything, in fact, a livestock farmer might need. Recently, though, the emphasis has changed. 'We're still tied up with farming, but I wouldn't say it dominates the shop,' said John. 'It's diminished over the past 10 or 15 years.'

Malton Livestock MarketMalton Livestock Market

They still make trailer sheets and ropes in the workshop, and Woodalls remains a key outlet for the many farmers visiting Malton Livestock Market. But these days John's best sellers are outdoor clothing and boots for walkers. It's symptomatic of how Malton is changing. The shop, run by the Woodall family for nearly a century, is no longer solely reliant on farming business- and neither is the town. Now the much-debated question is, where next for Malton? Everyone wants to see the town prosper and grow, but some fear that this could come at the expense of its many assets: the handsome market place, the array of independent businesses, the traditions and community spirit.

'It's a really nice market town,' says John. 'I like it, it's a nice place; quiet - but there's nothing wrong with that at all. 'The market place is very pleasant.We've still got some excellent family businesses - Malton was built on small family businesses. There are good local shops too.'

The town offers refreshments to match, from traditional tea rooms to a Mexican restaurant. Try a very special coffee at Leoni's on Wheelgate, as brewed to perfection by Simon Robertson, three times UK National Barista Champion. Or sup a pint at the multiaward- winning Suddaby's Crown Hotel. Suitably revived, you can explore the history of Ryedale's capital.

The town stands on the site of a Roman settlement and the restored Malton Wall Goddess is among many Roman artefacts you can find at the town's museum. If that wasn't enough, the town is a gateway to some fabulous countryside. 'It's an interesting place to come,' John said.

St Michael's ChurchSt Michael's Church

'There's lots of nice walks around here.We're on the edge of the Howardian Hills, we're very near the Wolds and of course the North York Moors are only 20 minutes away.'

So Malton has a lot going for it. But like any town, it can't stand still. It must find a way to attract visitors and shoppers away from York. Finding ways to preserve all that is best about the town while steering it into a bright future is the job of Ryedale District Council. It commissioned a town centre strategy, which has generated a raft of ideas, including a new supermarket on Wentworth Street car park, the pedestrianisation of part of the market place and the relocation of the livestock market.

Some of the ideas are more popular than others. A petition of several thousand names is demanding the livestock market stay put, and that's certainly the preferred option of Philip Place, of farm auctioneers Boulton & Cooper Stephensons. He has been conducting livestock sales in the market since 1968, and says it's the heart of the town which only requires a little more TLC.

'It's not had a lot spent on it and its image isn't particularly prestigious. It just needs a couple of bob spending on it to lift it - as does the town,' he said. He would like a new multi-functional building to be built: a meeting place with catering facilities to be used by both businesses and townspeople. Then the site would be buzzing seven days a week and not just on market days.

Saville StreetSaville Street

Like a lot of commercial and residential property in Malton, the livestock market is owned by Fitzwilliam Estates, which is pressing for the market to be relocated and redeveloped. The estate leases both the market place and the old town hall, now Malton Museum, to the council. Fitzwilliam Estates is considering taking control of both in 2009 when the leases run out, and has opened discussions with the council on their future.

'Rather than just accepting the status quo and renewing the lease of the market place and the museum in the old town hall building, we're saying the end of the lease is a time to explore if there's something more innovative and inspiring to be done with these assets,' said estate manager Roddy Bushell. 'We're asking people to consider what they may be.' The estate has its own ideas. It would like to take over the running of the Saturday market, to allow organisations to stage regular events in the market place, and to introduce free, two-hour parking to encourage shoppers.

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