Market horse is put out to grass

Sam, Chesterfield Market Horse.
Sam, Chesterfield Market Horse.

The days are numbered for Chesterfield’s popular market horse, after the council decided his role should be scrapped.

The horse and cart – a fixture of the town since the early 1980s – will be retired in March, with the money saved earmarked to pay for a week’s rent-free holiday for market traders.

Cabinet members at Chesterfield Borough Council voted in favour of a report cutting the £11,000 a year, two day a week, attraction to allow the week-long break to be guaranteed for all registered market stall holders – in a move that the council hopes will encourage more permanent traders into the town.

Cllr Nick Stringer, executive member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “This report reflects a council which is prepared to put its money where its mouth is to support Chesterfield markets and to continue to make it one of the best in the country and something we can all be proud of.

“The retirement of the horse was a difficult decision and one that we didn’t take lightly. Under very difficult economic circumstances that money is much better used supporting our market traders, who are the life-blood of our town centre, and to attract shoppers not just from Chesterfield but from much farther afield.”

On the streets of Chesterfield, opinion was divided over the council’s decision. Shopper, Tina Goodwin, said: “I think it’s a shame. This is a traditional cobbled market and the kids love to see him. The horse is very good for the ambience of the market.”

Robin Bradshaw, from Newbold, said: “I am not really bothered. There are more important things than horses.”

Justin Ayres, of Ayres Greengrocers on the market said he didn’t want the council to take away someone’s livelihood.

“I think we should keep the horse. That’s somebody’s earnings. It is just putting somebody out of work.”

The shire horse was introduced to the market over 30 years ago, and the driver was employed to assist with waste collection in the town. Over the years for health and safety reasons, the role changed and the horse and cart no longer assist with any collections.

Now just a popular sight in the town, Ben – the replacement for former horse Sam – and his owner, Mr Clarke, have six weeks notice before they leave the market for good.

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ellie.hunter@derbyshiretimes.co.uk