December 5, 2012
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.
November 28, 2012
One of the more well-known street markets of London, there has been a market operating in Petticoat Lane (later known as Middlesex Street) in East London since the 17th century.
The market – which lies in relatively close proximity to the Columbia Road Flower Market and Old Spitalfields Market as well as Brick Lane – started to emerge in the early 1600s as a place where clothes were traded and received a boost with the arrival of Huguenot silk weavers who settled in the area later that century having fled religious persecution in the continent (it’s believed the lane was named after the silk petticoats which were sold here).
During the 1800s the area become renowned as the centre of the clothes manufacturing trade and the market was the place to buy the clothes. Around 1830, the name of the street was changed from Petticoat Lane to Middlesex Street after some sensibilities were offended that the street was named after unmentionables.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the market became dominated by Jewish traders who had arrived in London, like the Huguenots before them, fleeing persecution in Europe. They added new life to the market and maintained the coster traditions.
Like many other street markets in London, the market didn’t get formal approval until quite late in life – only in 1936 was it was protected by an Act of Parliament.
These days the market – one of 1o managed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in whose jurisdiction the majority of the market lies – occupies the lanes and streets centring on Middlesex Street including Cobb Street, Goulston Street and Wentworth Street (which has long had a street market in its own right). It is open weekdays as well as Sunday when there are more than 1,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to CDs, books and artwork.
WHERE: Middlesex Street (nearest Tube stations are Aldgate, Aldgate East and Liverpool Street); WHEN: 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Sunday; COST: Free.
PICTURE: Andrew Dunn, www.andrewdunnphoto.com (via Wikipedia).
November 21, 2012
Originally founded in the early 1800s, the Columbia Road market in East London has since evolved into a specialist flower market on Sundays.
First emerging as a general street market in the early 1800s, the market was formalised in the mid 1800s when banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts financed the construction of the now demolished – and somewhat architecturally fanciful – Columbia Market. This opened in 1869 at the northern end of the road but didn’t prove a great success. Despite efforts to save it – including apparently relaunching it as a fish market – it closed in 1885.
The market building – which is said to have resembled the sort of market hall that might be found in rural areas – was later used as a warehouse but after suffering bomb damage in World War II were demolished.
The market, meanwhile, reappeared on the street and as the area’s Jewish population grew, moved to a Sunday, a decision which allowed traders from Covent Garden and Spitalfields to trade their leftover goods from the previous day.
The introduction of new regulations – including those introduced in the 1960s requiring traders to attend regularly – saw the market gradually transform itself into the colorful market selling cut flowers, plants and bulbs you can find there today. Popular with film makers and photographers thanks to the colourful backdrop it provides, the surrounding streets also feature a range of interesting independent shops and cafes.
WHERE: Columbia Road, Bethnal Green (nearest Tube stations are Shoreditch, Liverpool Street, Aldgate East and Bethnal Green); WHEN: 8am to 2pm Sunday; COST: Free; WEBSITE(S): www.columbiaroad.info/www.columbia-flower-market.freewebspace.com/index.html.
November 14, 2012
Established far more recently than many of the other markets we’ve looked at, the origins of a market in Portobello Road in London’s inner west only go back to the mid-to-late 19th century.
The oddly named road (it takes its name from the Battle of Porto Bello in the wonderfully named ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’ between Britain and Spain in the mid 18th century – more on that in an upcoming What’s in a Name? post), was transformed from a mere laneway, known as Greens Lane, to a larger thoroughfare in the mid 180os as the area developed and the market started to take shape in the 1880s.
These days the street market can stretch for a mile along Portobello Road from Golborne Road in the north to Chepstow Villas in the south.
It offers everything from fruit and vegetables and various foodstuffs (sold particularly at the northern end and along Golborne Road itself, known as Golborne Market as well around Elgin Crescent) through to vintage and alternative clothing, music and other bric-a-brac (a section in the middle, around the Westway flyover, specialises in this – this area includes the Acklam Village Market and the Portobello Green Fashion Market) and the world famous antiques market (down at the south end, closer to Notting Hill Gate Tube station – Saturday is the key day here).
Different sections of the market open on different days – there’s a great map showing what opens when on the Portobello and Golborne Markets website here) – but Saturdays and Sundays are sure to find the area packed with people. The street is also lined with independently owned shops (including the colourful buildings above) and arcades and, as well as street food stalls, there’s plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants where you can get a bite to eat.
There is currently a campaign to have Portobello Road declared Britain’s first “business conservation area” with the aim of preserving the character of the market. Head here for more details.
November 7, 2012
There has been a market on the site now known as Old Spitalfields Market, located on the eastern outskirts of the City of London next to what was the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital, since the thirteenth century.
But it was centuries later when, following the tumult of the Civil War, in 1682, John Balch was formally granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II to hold a “flesh, fowl and roots” market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or on the rectangle of land known as Spital Square. A ‘market-house’ was built on the site around this time for administrators with traders selling their wares from stalls.
The success of the market drew people to the area – in particular, Huguenots fleeing France who brought with them new skills in silk-weaving, and later Irish fleeing the Potato Famine and Jews escaping the harsh political climate in Eastern Europe – and the market gained a name for itself as a place to buy fresh produce.
By late in the 19th century, the market had fallen into decline. So, in 1876, a former market porter by the name of Robert Horner decided it needed an upgrade and, buying the lease, had the central market square roofed with glass and new market buildings, known as the Horner Buildings (pictured above), constructed around the northern, eastern and southern sides of the site. Having cost £80,000, it was completed in 1893.
In 1920, the City of London took over control of the market and later than decade expanded the original buildings. Having continued to grow over the ensuing years and with traffic congestion continuing to increase in the surrounding streets, it was decided to move the fresh produce aspect of the market to a new location at Leyton to the north-east.
The new market, known as New Spitalfields Market, covers more than 31 acres and boasts more than 100 traders.
Meanwhile, Old Spitalfields Market, the western end of which was redeveloped in the late 20th century, continues to operate on the original market site – now known as Horner Square, with stalls selling everything from contemporary and vintage fashion to music, gems and jewellery, bric-a-brac and antiques as well as various themed market days – check the website for more details.
October 31, 2012
We’ve had a quick look at the origins of Covent Garden before (as part of our What’s in a name? series) but it’s worth a recap.
Now a favorite of tourists visiting London, Covent Garden is these days largely known as a specialty shopping and entertainment precinct in the West End. But its beginnings as a market go back at least to the 1600s when a licence was formally granted to hold a market in the piazza.
The land had been formerly owned by the Abbey (or Convent) of St Peter in Westminster which had established 40 acre kitchen garden here (hence ‘Convent Garden’) and had passed into the hands of the Crown at the Dissolution. Later owned by the Earls of Bedford, it was the 4th earl, Francis Russell, who commissioned Inigo Jones to design a great residential square- including St Paul’s Church, known as the Actor’s Church – on the site.
By 1650, fruit and vegetable markets were regularly been held on the site and, interestingly, around this time the market adopted the pineapple, a symbol of wealth, as its emblem (it was also around this time that Punch and Judy shows were introduced to the area (see our earlier post on Mr Punch here)). Covent Garden’s rise to prominence as a market came when the Great Fire of London destroyed many of London’s other markets leaving it as the foremost fruit, vegetable and flower market. In May 1670, the 5th Earl of Bedford, William Russell (later 1st Duke of Bedford), obtained the formal right to hold a market on the site from King Charles II.
The growth of the market and the development of fashionable residential developments further west in Soho and Mayfair saw many of the affluent people who had lived around the market move out and the character of the square changed (in an indication of this, a list of Covent Garden prostitutes was published in 1740).
In 1813, the 6th Duke of Bedford, John Russell, secured an Act of Parliament regulating the market and in the late 1820s began to redevelop the site, commissioning architect Charles Fowler to design new buildings (up until then the market was housed in makeshift stalls and sheds). These include the grand main market building which still stands on the site today.
The market continued to grow – there is said to have been 1,000 porters employed at the market’s peak – and in 1860 a new flower market was built on the south piazza (where the London Transport Museum now stands), while in the 1870s, a glass roof was added to the market building. A “foreign” flower market opened in what is now Jubilee Hall in 1904.
In 1918, the Bedford family sold the market to the Covent Garden Estate Company. The next major installment in the market’s life came in 1974 when the market, which had outgrown the West End site, moved out to a new site in Nine Elms at Vauxhall in London’s inner south.
The Covent Garden site was left to fall into disrepair but, saved from demolition and redevelopment largely through the efforts of Geoffrey Rippon, then Secretary of State for the Environment, it subsequently underwent restoration, reopening as a speciality shopping centre in 1980 with areas including the Apple Market (pictured above), the East Colonnade Market and the Jubilee Market. Now owned by Capital & Counties who purchased it in 2006, the market – along with the larger 97 acre Covent Garden area – remain under the care of the Covent Garden Area Trust.
October 24, 2012
A covered – and splendidly decorated – Victorian-era market located just off Gracechurch Street in the heart of the City of London, Leadenhall Market might go un-noticed by many but visit at lunchtime on a weekday and you’ll to fight for space among the besuited City workers looking for sustenance there.
The history of a market on this site goes back to Roman times for it was under the current market that the remains of Londinium’s basilica and forum – the Roman marketplace – can be found (there’s apparently a part of the basilica wall in the basement of one of the Leadenhall shops).
This fell into disuse following the Roman period, however, and the origins of the current market are generally agreed upon as emerging in the 14th century when it occupied the site of a lead-roofed manor (hence “leaden hall) which was at one stage leased by the famous Lord Mayor Richard “Dick” Whittington before it burnt down in the late 1400s. The subsequent market was initially associated with poultry and then with cheese and other foodstuffs (it remained known for game and poultry) and separate areas were later developed for trade in wool, leather and cutlery.
In 1666, a small section of the market was destroyed in the Great Fire of London but it was rebuilt shortly after – for the first time under cover – and was divided into three sections: the Beef Market, the Green Yard and the Herb Market.
In 1881, after the existing building was demolished, a new structure boasting wrought iron and glass was designed by Sir Horace Jones (architect for the Corporation of the City of London, he also designed Billingsgate and Smithfield Markets – see our earlier entries here and here). The market is now one of the City’s five principal shopping centres and, as well as fresh food and flowers, hosts a variety of specialty shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs.
The Grade II* listed building was extensively restored in 1991. It has since starred in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as well as other films including The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
Before we finish, we would be remiss not to mention Old Tom. A celebrated gander, he managed to avoid the axe for years and became a favorite of traders and customers (even being fed by local innkeepers) – so much so, that when he died at the age of 38 in 1835, his body lay in state before he was buried on site. There’s a bar in the market named for him.
WHERE: Gracechurch Street, City of London (nearest Tube stations are Monument, Bank and Cannon Street); WHEN: Public areas are generally open 24 hours a day with core trading hours between 10am and 5pm weekdays (check with individual shops for opening hours); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.leadenhallmarket.co.uk
PICTURE: DAVID ILIFF. Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.
October 17, 2012
Now the UK’s largest inland fish market (and located in Poplar, east London), the history of Billingsgate Market goes back centuries.
Known originally by various spellings including Blynesgate and Byllynsgate, Billingsgate may have been named for watergate on the north bank of the Thames near where the market was originally established (an alternate theory is that it was named for a man named Biling or an mythological British king, Belin).
The right to collect tolls and customs at Billingsgate, along with Cheap and Smithfield, was granted by King Henry IV in 1400.
Billingsgate only became particularly associated with fish in the 1500s and in 1699, an Act of Parliament was passed making it “a free and open market for all sorts of fish whatsoever” (this was with the exception of eels, restricted to being sold by Dutchmen from boats in the river – a reward for the help they provided after the Great Fire of 1666).
While for much of the market’s history, fish was sold for stalls and sheds around the ‘hythe’ or dock at the site known as Billingsgate, in 1850 the first purpose-built market building was constructed in Lower Thames Street.
Deemed inadequate for the task at hand, however, it was demolished after slightly more than 20 years of service. A new building, designed by then City Architect Sir Horace Jones and constructed by John Mowlem, was opened in on the same site in 1876. In the late 19th century, it is said to have been the largest fish market in the world. The heritage listed former fish market building in Lower Thames Street (pictured above) is now used as a venue for corporate events, catwalk shows, post premiere parties and concerts (see the website for more www.oldbillingsgate.co.uk).
In 1982, the market was relocated to a 13 acre site on the Isle of Dogs, just to the north-east of Canary Wharf. The building contains a trading floor with some 98 stands and 30 shops as well as an 800 tonne freezer store. An average of 25,000 tonnes of fish and fish products are sold through its merchants every year and the market has an annual turnover of around £200 million.
The role of the fish porter – who traditionally have been the only people licensed to move fish around the market – was opened up to anyone following a fiercely fought battle between the porters, traders and the City of London Corporation earlier this year.
The market is open to the general public and tours can be arranged – head to the website for details.
WHERE: Billingsgate Market, Trafalgar Way, Poplar (nearest Tube Station is Canary Wharf); WHEN: 4am to 9.30am Tuesday to Saturday (children under 12 are not permitted on the market floor and non-slip shoes are advisable); COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/wholesale-food-markets/billingsgate/Pages/default.aspx.
October 10, 2012
Now the largest wholesale meat market in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe, the connections between the site of Smithfield Market, officially known as the London Central Markets, and livestock go back to at least 800 years.
Since the 12th century animals were routinely traded here thanks to the site’s position on what was then the northern edge of the city. Smithfield was also known for being an area for jousting and tournaments and was the location of the (in)famous St Barthlomew Fair (this closed in 1855) as well as an execution ground – among those executed here were Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasant’s Revolt, and ‘Braveheart’, Sir William Wallace (1305).
Skip ahead several hundred years and, by the the mid-1800s, traffic congestion led to the livestock trade being relocated to a new site north of Islington. Plans were soon launched to locate a cut meat market on the Smithfield site.
Following the passing of an Act of Parliament, work on the new market began in 1866 with Sir Horace Jones (he of Tower Bridge fame), the City Architect, overseeing the design. Constructed of ornamental cast iron, stone, Welsh slate and glass, the initial market buildings were completed in 1868 with the result being two vast buildings, separated by a grand central avenue, but linked under a single roof. The new market was opened amid much pomp by the Lord Mayor of London on 24th November, 1868.
Four further buildings were soon added – only one, the Poultry Market, which opened in 1875, is still in use – and in the 1870s the market began to see the arrival of frozen meat imported from as far afield as Australia and South America.
Closed briefly during World War II – when the site was used for storage and an army butcher’s school – it reopened afterwards. The main poultry building was destroyed in a fire in 1958 and a replacement featuring a domed roof – the largest clear spanning dome roof in Europe at the time – was completed by 1963.
More recently, the market underwent a major upgrade in the 1990s. Queen Elizabeth II opened the refurbished East Market Building in June, 1997.
WHERE: London Central Markets, Charterhouse Street and West Smithfield (nearest Tube Stations are Barbican, St Paul’s and Moorgate); WHEN: From 3am Monday to Friday (visitors are told to arrive by 7am to see the market in full swing) (There are walking tours available – see www.cityoflondontouristguides.com for details); COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.smithfieldmarket.com.
PICTURE: Rossella De Berti/www.istockphoto.com
September 26, 2012
In the first of a new series looking at some of London’s most historic markets, we take a look at the history of Borough Market in Southwark, now the city’s most famous food market.
The origins of a food market in the area go back to at least to the reign of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred the Unready in early 11th century (some have suggested as far back as Roman times) with food vendors clustering around the southern end of London Bridge. The market was relocated to Borough High Street in the 1200s.
In 1755, traffic congestion saw Parliament close the market but Southwark residents raised £6,000 and bought a small area of land known as The Triangle – once part of the churchyard of the now long gone church of St Margaret’s – and reopened the market there.
The Triangle still remains at the heart of the market which sits partly under railway arches just to the south of the Southwark Cathedral churchyard. New market buildings were constructed in the mid 1800s but deemed “impractical”, they were replaced by new buildings in the late 1800s and 1930s (the latter was when the art deco entrance on Borough High Street was erected).
The market was refurbished in 2001 and the ornate Grade II-listed Floral Hall, which was originally the south portico on the Floral Hall at Covent Garden (taken down to make way for the Royal Opera House), was installed in 2003.
There are now more than 100 stalls in the wholesale and retail food market, making it one of the largest in London. It is owned by a charitable trust, The Borough Market (Southwark), with the volunteer trustees all local residents. Sections in the market include the Jubilee Market and the Green Market and a blue plaque, declaring the market London’s “oldest fruit and veg market”, was installed by Southwark Council earlier this year.
The amazing variety fine food on offer will tempt even the most jaded of palates but be warned that you have to queue as it can get a little packed with tourists at lunchtimes!
WHERE: 8 Southwark Street (nearest Tube Stations are London Bridge or Borough); WHEN: 10am to 3pm Monday to Wednesday, 11am to 5pm Thursday, 12pm to 6pm Friday, and, 8am to 5pm Saturday; COST: Free entry; WEBSITE: www.boroughmarket.org.uk