THE TENTED Market's manager has mourned the death of a site that launched the careers of generations of Swindon entrepreneurs.

The market will close its doors at 5.30pm on Thursday, with owners hoping to build a 12-storey apartment block in its place.

The tented market was built in 1994, although there has been a market on the site since 1892. In July, traders at the 53-unit market were given a month’s notice to shut up shop.

Nik Hayward, 46, of Covingham, has been manager at the market for seven years.

He said: “The prime thing about this place was that it was cheap for start-up businesses.

“Taking on a shop would be very expensive, whereas with this it was nice and simple. As long as you had your deposit and ID, I could give you the keys to a unit almost straightaway.”

The Tented Market was home to businesses like food stall Eggelicious, which has since opened cafés in Old Town and the Brunel Centre.

Nik called on the council to provide more opportunities for market trading in the town. “Swindon was a market town long before Brunel came with the railway. It was built on market trading.”

He added: “The council should look at other cities, places like Bath where they allow outside individual traders.

“At the moment in Swindon there’s nothing affordable being put in to try and get more traders in the town centre.”

All traders have been told to clear the market by the weekend, with Nik finally shutting the market on Saturday.

He said: “I’ll feel very sad. It’s the end of a massive era for me. I’ll miss it.

“It’s a massive disappointment for me. I still think it could be something. With a bit more investment it could have been a goer.”

However, he suggested that the Tented Market could yet return. “It was once closed for two years before the current owners took it over and opened it up.”

Nik will go on to run smoking accessories business Havelock Street’s The Lazy Frog. The shop, which is currently managed by Nik’s daughter, started off in the Tented Market – and was subsequently bought by Nik.

Yesterday, the few traders that remained in the market were clearing out their units.

Dave Holt, 49, of Vape Ninja, had mixed feelings about leaving: “I thought I would be pleased to go, with all the hassle that we’ve had. But I feel a little strange about it.

“The closure of this place means nobody else who wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea will have a place to set up.”

Mandeep Dhaliwal, 40, who was packing away boxes in Xpress Phones and Accessories, said: “Lots of our customers have been coming here since the market opened. It’s really sad.”