This article adds to on-going debates about food provisioning in England and the relative positioning of supermarkets vis-à-vis other sources of fresh food. Arguing that traditional food markets have been neglected in the agri-food literature, the paper investigates the suggestion that they are at ‘a critical juncture’, with many in decline and others being (re-)gentrified for a wealthier type of customer. Theoretically, the article argues that the ‘internal’ and ‘external’ spaces and places of traditional food markets are tightly interwoven. It draws on database analysis and detailed findings from interviews with market managers, traders and shoppers conducted on markets in contrasting regions of England in the cities of Newcastle and Cambridge. The findings provide new insights by examining the connective spaces and places that link market actors and consumers as fresh food moves across the geographical regions and through the marketplace. Taking a relational view, the paper challenges the suggestion that traditional food markets are at ‘a critical juncture’, arguing that there are unique points of difference on how the traditional food market adapts to rapid retail change, according to its geography, history and the spatial and temporal tensions between traditional and modernised fresh food provisioning systems, and suggests the need for further in-depth research.