End of era as last stallholder leaves market

Phil Smith

Phil Smith

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It will be the end of an era next week when the last stall at Douglas Market Hall closes.

Phil Smith, a retired Castle Rushen High School biology teacher, has run a books and records stall in the market for the past 17 years.

Now the last stallholder left, he claims he’s being evicted to allow the historic building to become a base for an extended range of art, design and digital media degree courses being offered by Isle of Man College.

A planning application for a change of the use of the venue is due to be submitted imminently.

Mr Smith, aged 71, of Castletown, said: ‘I’m the final stall left in and they’re evicting me next week. I’ve mixed feelings.

‘If it wasn’t for the fact they’re chucking me out I would find it difficult to leave.

‘I’ve enjoyed it. Even though it doesn’t make any money it’s as much a social thing as a business thing.

‘The Market Hall isn’t in a good position - there’s no passing trade. It needed someone to come in and liven it up.’

Built in the 1890s as a mini version of London’s Covent Garden, it has been the island’s indoor market for more than 100 years.

Once Phil’s stall has gone, the hall will be refurbished ready for its new use in September – if planning consent is granted.

Harry’s Cafe, Michael’s Butcher Shop and the public toilets will be remain so the building will still be open to the public.

Other stallholders left last year.

‘They had an inkling something like this would happen. Absolutely no effort has been made to get anyone else in,’ said Mr Smith.

He will be holding a final clearance sale beginning at 10am on Saturday (June 7) and continuing on Sunday and Monday.

Mr Smith claims Douglas Council had shown little interest in promoting the market and apart from basic maintenance, its only other expenditure had been £100,000 on outdoor illuminations and four pay toilets.

Chris Pycroft, of the Douglas Development Partnership, denied that Mr Smith was being evicted.

He said: ‘He has never been a tenant but a licence holder. Stallholders were on monthly licence. Mr Smith has been told his licence will be not renewed beyond a certain date.’

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