A POPULAR market has closed after more almost 30 years of trading.

Consett Women's Institute market, which first opened for trading in 1976, was closed earlier this month because of a decline in the number of producers.

But shareholders and producers have left provision for the market, which was held on the first Friday of the month at the St John Ambulance Hall, to reopen within two years if there is enough interest.

The market's closure means just five WI markets remain in County Durham - at Barnard Castle, Darlington, Sedgefield, Durham, and a new market at Lanchester.

Secretary of the market committee Mrs Nighean Stabler said some producers were in their 80s and younger members had failed to come forward.

She said: "It's a real shame because we had a lot of regular customers. People are still stopping us in the street and asking us about it."

Mrs Stabler said WI markets started in 1919 when the Carnegie Trust offered funding to provide markets for poorer people. Even though the markets are tied to the WI, men have also been allowed to become involved. Special legislation exists for the markets so that produce sold on the stalls is not subject to the same regulations as food sold elsewhere.