A WEEKLY country market has been forced to shut after 65 years because it cannot afford to pay its £45 rent.

Abingdon Country Market, which runs at the town’s Guildhall each Friday, said it cannot compete with out-of-town supermarkets and the rise in online shopping.

Four years ago, the market had 100 customers every Friday morning, queueing to buy fresh eggs, vegetables and home-made cakes.

Now, the committee that runs the market said it was lucky if it sold seven boxes of eggs a week, and the co-operative was making just £39 a week.

Since Abingdon Town Council put the group’s rent up from £30 to £45 in January, it has been making a loss.

The last market will be held tomorrow from 9.30am to 11am.

Manager Valerie Drakley said: “It is a very sad day and our customers can’t believe it.

“People are either shopping out of town at big complexes or doing it online.”

But, she said, the biggest change which had “crippled” the market was the increase in rent.

When she joined with the market 10 years ago, after retiring from running a Singer sewing machine shop in Stert Street, it was as successful as it had ever been, she said.

Her husband Malvin, spokesman for the market committee of six, said: “Our customers are mostly very mature people.

“I think most of them have passed away, and by-and-large we haven’t had any younger people coming in.

“I think a lot of young people don’t know how to cook, and they are missing out on a lot.

“We have got local honey, and that’s good for your hayfever.

“Our food has no preservatives in – if you buy our jam it’s just fruit and sugar.

“I think we’re cheaper as well; the cakes in Waitrose are a lot more expensive.”

In 2005 he said the market was making four-figure sums on its freshly-baked cakes alone.

He added: “It is very, very sad how it has gone down.”

Town council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “It is a great shame, I think they have struggled to get people into the Guildhall, probably not enough people knew it was there.”

The Guildhall costs the council £150,000 of its £1.3m annual budget, and Mr Lovatt said the council was already trying to “make ends meet” there.

The country market will continue to run a stall at Abingdon Farmers’ Market in the Market Place on the third Friday of each month and will still be available for special events, orders and hamper deliveries.

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