SHOPPERS are returning to a town’s market in their droves – boosting high street trade in the process.

The public is returning to Rayleigh’s market to buy cakes, bread, and fruit and veg from the stallholders who have been moved to the heart of the town.

The market – which is mentioned as far back as 1181 and is the second oldest in the country behind Colchester – was previously held in the car park at the top of the High Street, but dwindling trade led the town council to take it over and move it to its new location in the taxi rank outside Boots.

It is hoped the market will bring more people into the town and help support the High Street.

It was officially relaunced with the booming voice of the town crier and it is hoped the shopping buzz will continue.

Trevor Day, 49, who has a stall selling household goods, has been one of the driving forces behind getting the market set up.

He said: “I have been working on market stalls for 28 years. It has declined, but the idea of this maket being here is to regenerate the whole area. Everybody from every shop, even the banks, have said Wednesdays are their busiest day now.”

The market moved just before Christmas and due to its success there is already a waiting list of 50 traders.

The news is a boost to the local economy and follows a report by retail expert Mary Portas last month, which called for a national market day as part of a 28-point plan to revitalise high streets.

Peter Cooper, 82, of Shannon Avenue, Rayleigh, had popped to the market to buy some fruit and veg.

He said: “I think it is very good, better than the one at the other end. I would say it has brought more people to the High Street. I come down for everything, in general.”

Rayleigh town councillor Dave Sperring says the interest could see the market get even bigger.

He said: “The footfall has been better than we could have hoped.

“I have had nothing but positive responses. We do have the scope to enlarge the market, which we will certainly be considering, but we wanted to form a nucleus first to make sure the market had a heart.”

Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, said: “The old market up by the civic suite was getting a bit tired and by bringing it down in the middle of the High Street, it makes the market more prominent. You can see by the number of people here how popular it is.”

The market is open every Wednesday from 8am until 2pm.