Sorry to see you leave: Market Square plant sellers say goodbye after 34 years

Tony and Anne Shelvey are retiring after 34 years on Northampton Market NNL-161220-143337009
Tony and Anne Shelvey are retiring after 34 years on Northampton Market NNL-161220-143337009

A pair of evergreen traders who have worked at Northampton’s market for 34 years - once amid a swarm of bees - are bidding farewell to the town.

Tony and Anne Shelvey have been making the 90-minute journey from their home in Stamford, Lincolnshire, to Northampton since they first got their bedding plant and flower stall in 1982.


But the grandparents-of-four decided to close the popular stand for good yesterday to begin enjoying their retirement years.


Though former engineer Mr Shelvey will turn 80 in February, he will not be leaving the trade completely, as he plans to keep selling the plants he grows in his Stamford nursery on the wholesale market.  

 
He said: “We’ve enjoyed ourselves - and we’ve had some very good customers, so were sorry to be leaving them like this.

“But I won’t be retiring completely - it’s hard to stop growing plants when you’ve been growing them for a lifetime.”


Mr and Mrs Shelvey had originally applied for a market stall in historic Stamford back in the early 1980s, but the waiting time for a pitch there was five years.  


So the couple thought they would “try their luck” at Northampton, landing a pitch at Market Square straight away.


Now married for 54 years, Mr Shelvey said leaving the stall will allow the green-fingered couple to enjoy life outside of horticulture.

 
“I shall just enjoy my time growing a bit of stuff,” he said. “But we will have a bit more of a social life  - because you do sacrifice a lot doing this job.

“When you grow it yourself, it takes up a lot of time - it takes a bit of dedication.”


Mr Shelvey worked as a “turner” in the engineering trade before running his own stall.


In all those years working together the couple say one day stands out as the most memorable - when their stall was overtaken by a freak swarm of bees in 2008. 


“I remember, we looked up and it looked like there was a lot of flies coming over the bottom end of the market,” Mr Shelvey said.

“Then all of a sudden these bees started flying around the stall - and the next thing we knew there were all sorts of people swarming around the stalls as well, taking photos.

“But they (the bees) didn’t scare anyone, they didn’t sting anybody we carried on serving customers - we just carried on as normal.”


The swarm of bees in the town centre was dealt with by two beekeepers from Northampton conservation group South Court Environmental who had to subdue the bees with smoke and then knock them into a cardboard box.

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