Local Face: Christine Barden

Christine has been a familiar Thursday face in Wendover for fifteen years now, serving us the freshest possible fruit and vegetables straight from Spittalfields onto the Manor Waste. Yes, Christine is a member of the S C Sinfield family firm which has been supplying greengrocery for over 100 years.

Every Thursday morning a large lorry leaves the small village of Willington near Bedford at 4.30am and travels south over Dunstable Downs. The family joke is that as they come over the top they can see clouds gathering and pouring rain on Wendover and they know that they will suffer yet another drenching!

The advanced party will have left even earlier to arrive in Wendover by 4.30am and start putting up the bars, covering them with sheets, hanging up the bags and setting up the scales. At 5.30am the perishables arrive and everyone starts laying them out. The first customer is usually served at about 6.50am but the stall isn’t fully ready until 8.00am. Since introducing self service 3 years ago it has become even busier.

The standard types of foods sold by S C Sinfield has not really changed much over the years but their seasons have extended greatly now that fruit and vegetables come from all over the world. This Bedfordshire family hails from a county famous for growing vegetables and still sources potatoes, carrots, cabbages and the like from farms local to them but Spittalfields Wholesale Fruit Market offers worldwide produce.

Sidney Charles Sinfield started his business in Luton at the end of the nineteenth century and ran shops as well as market stalls. His daughter Lilian was the last of the Sinfields and she married a Barden but the firm kept its good name even though the family name had now changed. Michael, Christine’s husband, is Lilian’s grandson and his brother Mark is also a business partner. Their parents sold their last greengrocery shop in Luton 10 years ago. The supermarkets have killed that sort of High Street shopping but the open market can still flourish as we witness every Thursday in Wendover. At that point the Barden family then moved away from Luton to near Bedford and here they had enough land to build proper warehousing facilities and a secure lorry park. They are able to service the local Bedford market two days a week and a nearby Sunday market as well as the long trawl to Wendover on Thursdays.

Christine is the friendly face we see managing the tills on a Thursday morning. Some customers are pensioners who live alone and make small purchases; others might make a special order of a box of fruit or a bag of potatoes or horse carrots. S C Sinfield also supplies some local restaurants and a local golf club. Christine and Michael’s son James now works full time for the firm and their daughter Danielle is part time. Both children have helped since they were young, starting with Saturdays and then gradually doing more. They also bring with them four other staff local to Bedford.

The packing up on the Manor Waste begins at 4.30pm unless it is really dark when it may begin at 4.00pm. They return to Willington at 8.00pm. Thursday can be the longest day! Thank you, Christine, for bringing freshness into our lives every Thursday.