Many people know Finmere only for its Sunday market, which is held on the former airfield in Little Tingewick. Wendy and Kenneth Hobday established the market in 1973, despite strong opposition from Buckinghamshire County Council, which believed that it contravened Sunday trading laws. The proprietors argued that they could circumvent these laws by charging customers ten pence to join the ‘Wendy Fair Market Club.’ The public supported them and between twenty and thirty thousand people attended its opening on 13 May.
Thousands of people went to the first Sunday market at Finmere to be met by a howling wind that threatened to end the trading where Bucks County Council could not. Over 140 stalls were set up in spite of the stormy weather and an edict from the planners that the airport land should not be used for the purposes of a market… Each of the people running the stalls was given a warning by officers of Bucks County Council… The pleasure of the occasion was spoiled a little by the wind, which blew dust from the chippings—laid to make roadways for market customers—all over the stalls and shoppers’ faces. (Buckingham Advertiser, 18 May 1973)
The strong wind and low clouds led to the cancellation of a sky diving display. Insensitive to the market’s popularity and the good-humoured atmosphere on the opening day, the County Council was determined to stop it. On 1 July, the operators and twenty-five traders were fined £1,545 at Buckingham Magistrates Court for breaching Sunday trading laws. Despite the fines, the market continued and on 8 July attracted nine thousand people. In August, the Hobdays and seven stallholders were back in the Magistrates Court. Anthony Scrivener QC, later a Chairman of the Bar, represented the Council. He condemned the Market Club.
On this occasion, a most sinister scheme was operated. Members of the public who came to the market were induced to join a so-called club… What is most sinister is that they were all paying 10p for the privilege of buying goods. How many people would pay 10p to go into Marks and Spencers? There are a great many people who do not realise they have been taken in by a useless piece of paper. (Buckingham Advertiser, 3 August 1973)
The defendants were fined £1,400 in fines and costs, but this did not lessen their determination to succeed. The Christmas market on 9 December 1973 drew an estimated thirty to thirty-five thousand people between 10 am and 1 pm.
In 1974, Aylesbury Vale District Council assumed responsibility for planning matters from the County Council. It recognised the success of the market and took a more conciliatory approach. A year later, it granted planning approval for the market to be held for three years.
In 1976, planning permission was extended to March 1981. The market continues today, though it has not been as busy since Sunday trading laws were relaxed in 1994 to allow supermarkets and other stores to trade legally on Sundays. The photographs below were taken in January 2003.
The old airfield is also now the site of the annual Bicester Sheep Fair. The photographs below were taken in 1999.
The market has been under new management since June 2003 and has a renewed vigour with hundreds of stalls and thousands of shoppers.