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).

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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.

Old Spitalfields Market
WHERE: Horner Square, Spitalfields (nearest Tube stations are Shoreditch High Street and Liverpool Street); WHEN: Markets are held every day – times vary so check website for details; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com.
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New Spitalfields Market
WHERE: 23 Sherrin Road, Leyton (nearest Tube station is Leyton); WHEN: Trading hours midnight to around 9am, Monday to Saturday; COST: Free; WEBSITE: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/wholesale-food-markets/new-spitalfields/Pages/default.aspx.