While there is said to have been a market in Greenwich since as far back as the 1300s, it was on 19th December, 1700, that Lord Romney granted the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital a charter to hold a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The market was originally located on the site of the Old Royal Naval College’s west gate and the surrounding area but under an initiative to clean up the area in the early 1800s – when the market sold all manner of foodstuffs, including livestock, as well as general goods – saw the commissioners move it to its current location on an “island site” in the midst of a block bounded by Nelson Road, King William Walk, College Approach and Greenwich Church Street.
Under the direction of Greenwich surveyor Joseph Kay (he also built Greenwich’s Trafalgar Tavern), between 1827-1833 the market was rebuilt with three roofs constructed over three linked buildings to protect traders and customers from the weather.
In 1849 an Act of Parliament was passed giving Greenwich Hospital the right to regulate the marketplace including creating byelaws and collecting fees from traders.
In the early 1900s, the byelaws were changed so the market could trade six days a week (except Sundays) and in 1908, the original timber roofing of the market was replaced with the steel and glass roof that still stands today.
The market, which lost its roof when it was struck by flying bombs in 1944, was established as a wholesale market in the years after the war and renovations carried out in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The market remained a wholesale fruit and vegetable market until 1980s when, inspired by the success of Camden Lock Market in London’s north (we’ll look at this market in a later post), it was transformed into an arts and crafts market (officially opened on 14th May, 1985) with shops around the edge let to craft-related businesses.
These days the market has about 150 stalls, selling everything from antiques and fashion to art and photographic work, jewellery, books and gifts as well a host of places to eat and drink in the market and surrounding streets.
A regeneration plan – under which a 100 bed hotel, 17,000sq ft of retail space and 155 trading stalls would be located on the 1.64 acre site currently occupied by the market – is now under consideration by Greenwich Hospital. The market is expected to be relocated to the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College while the regeneration takes place in January with the market reopened in late 2014.
WHERE: The market has four entrances – off Greenwich Church Street, Nelson Road, King William Walk and College Approach, Greenwich (nearest DLR is Cutty Sark); WHEN: 10am to 5.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays (different stalls operate on different days – check website for details); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.shopgreenwich.co.uk/greenwich-market.
This is the last in our series on 10 Historic London Markets (we’ll be looking at more markets in upcoming posts). PICTURE: visitlondonimages/britainonview/Stephen McLaren.
For more on London’s markets, check out The London Market Guide.