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Street Markets

Markets represent the oldest way in which goods are sold. The idea is ancient, and many markets that continue today in towns and cities across the UK have a long history. However, there are a number of markets which are particularly historic and well known. What follows is a selection of historic London markets.

 

Borough Market

Borough Market in Southwark has a history that predates the Roman invasion of Britain. The site of London represents what was once the lowest fordable point of the river Thames, and in pre Roman Britain trading activity was already taking place just south of the fording point, in what is now Southwark. Mention was first made of Borough Market as an institution in 1276, when traffic problems on London Bridge caused by the market were recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the market has moved a few hundred yards either side of the south end of London Bridge during its long history it has always remained in generally the same location. Borough Market has been on its present site since 1756. In the fourteenth century, inns grew up to cater for merchants who travelled to trade here. The Tabard Inn of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was one such inn. The George Inn, which stood near the Tabard, was another, and in part this inn still survives.

Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Directions: Borough Market is surrounded by Southwark Street, Bedale Street, Stoney Street and Winchester Walk. The nearest Underground station is London Bridge. The market can be found almost underneath the mainline London Bridge station. See interactive map centred on Borough Market.

Contact:

telephone: 020 7407 1002

e-mail: info@boroughmarket.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greenwich

Greenwich Market was established in 1849, and now specialises in antiques, arts and crafts, clothing and books. A trip to the market could be combined with visits to many other attractions available in Greenwich, including Cutty Sark, Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, and the Old Royal Naval College.

Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Directions: Greenwich Market is in a covered area bordered by College Approach, King William Walk, Greenwich Church Street and Nelson Road. Click here for an interactive map centred on Greenwich Market.

To get to the market you could either take the Docklands Railway to Island Gardens, and then walk through the footbridge to Greenwich; or you could take a river bus from one of the Thames piers in central London. I recommend the boat. Pricey though it may be, it's a great introduction to a day in Greenwich. See the following web site for details of river bus services: www.tfl.gov.uk/river

Contact:

telephone: 020 8269 5096

 

 

 

 

 

Leadenhall

There has been a market at the site of Leadenhall off Gracechurch Street since the fourteenth century. The old market was damaged by the Great Fire of London in 1666, and it was in repairing the market that it was given a roof for the first time. This was the Leadenhall that the eighteenth century writer Daniel Defoe would have known. He mentioned Leadenhall in his famous novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719, about a man marooned alone on a desert island. When Crusoe has a particularly successful day finding food on his island it is of Leadenhall that he thinks: "Leaden-hall Market could not have furnished a table better than I."

In 1881 the roof was replaced by a new wrought iron and glass structure designed by Sir Horace Jones. This is the market that we see today . Leadenhall is now a collection of shops, restaurants and pubs. The market is popular with tourists, and with City workers on their lunch breaks.

Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Directions: The nearest Underground stations are Monument, Bank or Liverpool Street. Click here for an interactive map centred on Leadenhall.

Contact:

e-mail: nick.johnston@cityoflondon.gov.uk

telephone: 020 7929 1073

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Spitalfields Market

In 1638 Charles I gave a licence for "flesh, fowl and roots" to be sold at a place then known as Spittle Fields. This market continues to trade over two hundred and fifty years later, selling a huge range of goods. It is best known for fashion, the arts, food, and interiors.

The market underwent a major refurbishment in 2007, and visitors can now enjoy the atmosphere of a fine Victorian trading hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spitalfield Shops - photo courtesy of Spitalfields Market

Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

 

Directions: Old Spitalfields Market is very close to Liverpool Street station in the City. Walk into Bushfield Street opposite the station, and continue straight ahead. Click here for an interactive map centred on old Spitalfields Market. Shops in the historic area of Artillery Row are nearby.

Contact:

telephone: 020 7247 8556

web site: www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portobello Road

The name of Portobello Road commemorates Admiral Vernon's capture of the Caribbean city of Puerto Bello in 1739. A farm was named after this victory, and Porto Bello Road was once a lane leading to the farm. The market began in the late 1860s or early 1870s on Saturdays. By the 1920s the market was being held every day of the week, although it was some time before a daily market was officially accepted. By the 1960s Portobello Road Market was world famous, and was one of the icons of swinging London. When I visited I was delighted to see a psychedelically decorated fruit and veg van.

Portobello Road was featured in the films Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Notting Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

Today the market is as vibrant and successful as ever. It's structure has endured, with bric-a-brac and antiques in the southern section, fruit and vegetables in the centre, clothing and bedding to the north. There are also shops on both sides of the street, all of which have a unique and individual character.

 

Portobello Road also has the Electric Cinema, the oldest working cinema in Britain.

Directions: Portobello Road is in the Notting Hill area of west London. There are all kinds of communities in this area, and the terraced house architecture is often wonderful. I recommend walking to the market down Ladbroke Grove from Kensington. The nearest tube stations are Ladbroke Grove and Holland Park. Click here for an interactive map centred on Portobello Road.

 

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©2006 InfoBritain (updated 01/13)