With the outbreak of war these markets were taken over as collection centres by the Ministry of Agriculture with Mr. H. Palmer being appointed as the local supervisor. Hall & Palmer's were allotted the centre for cattle and Barnham's for pigs. bv the time the collecting centres finished operating in 1955 both firms had considerably increased the other side of their business of Estate Agents, Valuers etc., and the cattle markets were not restarted.
In 1924 Lt. Col. Barnham erected the wooden building alongside the Norwich Road as a furniture Sale Room and for the next 40 years up to a thousand lots of furniture were auctioned there most Wednesdays. As well as being an auction room, it served the town as a hall where a wide variety of functions were held until the opening of the Queen's Hall in 1956. The "Sale Rooms" as they were known to everyone, have recently been converted into a branch of the Westminster Bank. Twelve years after leaving school and starting work for H. G. Barnham & Son as an auctioneer’s clerk, Noel Abel took over the business in its entirety on the retirement of Lt. Col. Barnham. In 1962-3 he had the present spacious auction rooms built on the site where some of the pig pens were previously situated.
Part of Abel's Removal Complex on the Norwich Road.
During the last few years the Market Stalls on Wednesdays have increased considerably. Before the last war they occupied both sides of Middle Street, the Market Place and along the High Street as far as the Clock Tower. Now there are none in Middle Street, but the Market Place is still full and they extend down to the old brewery along the north side of High Street with the odd one or two on the south side.
In addition to carrying on with the weekly furniture sales Noel Abel and his son Tony have built up one of the largest removal and storage business in the country. In 1972 a large complex of storage and removal buildings were erected opposite the R.A.F. Station on the Norwich Road. These were considerably expanded in 1980 and now cover an area of 8 acres with a storage space of 54,000 square feet. A fleet of 61 removal vans, which include some of the largest removable vehicles allowed on British roads, make regular trips to Germany and other European countries as well as Singapore and Australia, thereby putting Watton very much on the map. One of the firm’s most im portant contracts was the removal of the effects of the Prince and Princess of Wales from Buckingham Palace to their home at Highgrove. Another of Abel's special assignments was moving an exhibition for the Sultan of Oman 6,000 miles across Europe. Mr. Paul Kryger drove the large removal van through Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Austria, stopping in towns and cities on the route to display the exhibition for His Majesty Sultan Oaboos bin Said, the Sultan. With a btaff of 180, Abel's are now one of the largest employers of labour in the town.