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.

PICTURE: Dynasoar/www.istockphoto.com

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As the fame of author Charles Dickens grew, so too did his philanthropy and today we’re highlighting a couple of the London institutions he was known to support (and yes, we’ve changed the title for this series as most of the entries comprised more than one site!)…

1. Urania Cottage. A home for the redemption of “fallen women” or prostitutes, Urania Cottage was founded by an initially reluctant Dickens in Shepherd’s Bush in the city’s west in the late 1840s following an approach by Angela Burdett Coutts, heiress to the Coutts banking fortune. The home was founded as an alternative to existing institutions for such women – known for their “harsh and punishing” routines – and instead looked to provide an environment where they could learn skills, such as reading and writing, to help them successfully reintegrate into society (this would be overseas as all the women who spent time at the house were apparently required to emigrate following their time there). After founding the home in Lime Grove, Dickens became heavily involved in establishing the day-to-day running of the home – including interviewing prospective residents and personally searching prisons and workhouses for suitable candidates. It’s estimated that 100 women graduated from the home between 1847 and 1859. (For more, see Jenny Hartley’s Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women).

2. Great Ormond Street Hospital. Dickens played an important role in helping to publicise the work of this hospital – then known as the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street, it opened in a converted 17th century townhouse in Great Ormond Street in 1852 and, initially with just 10 beds, was the first hospital in Britain to offer inpatient care only to children. The hospital was apparently initially regarded with suspicion by many and had few patients but Dickens, a close friend of Dr Charles West, the principal founder of the hospital, was able to write a powerful article about the hospital in his publication Household Words and so help to popularise its ground-breaking work. Dickens was a regular at the hospital’s annual fundraising dinner, was appointed an honorary governor and helped save the church from financial collapse in 1858 when he gave a public reading at St Martin-in-the-Fields’ church hall to raise funds. For more on the history of Great Ormond Street, see www.gosh.nhs.uk/about-us/our-history/.

3. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Clearly concerned with the well-being of all creatures great and small, Dickens was an influential supporter of the dogs home – then housed in a disused barn in Hollingsworth Street, Holloway – writing an article in the 1860s in his magazine All The Year Round about how dogs were cared for at the then fledgling organisation. In honor of the bicentenary of his birth, the home has been naming some of the animals in its care after some of the characters created by the Victorian author – these include a Staffordshire bull terrier called Copperfield and a bull mastiff cross called Dodger. For more on the home, see www.battersea.org.uk.

We’d be interested to hear from you if there are any other organisations you’re aware of which Dickens supported…