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PHOTO ESSAY: SPITALFIELDS MARKET

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SPITALFIELDS MARKET IS KNOWN FOR ITS SPIRIT AND STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNITY. YOU MAY THINK VINTAGE CLOTHES, FOOD TRUCKS AND MARKET TRADERS BUT SPITALFIELDS IS MORE THAN THAT…

A cultural hot-spot representing a wealth of cultural and socioeconomic diversity. The place where artists, designers, food-lovers and fashion-enthusiasts meet.

But how did it look back then? Historically, it played host to a transient community, primarily for new immigrants.

The old Spitalfields market was named after the priory and hospital, St Mary Spital, which was founded in 1197.

Union jack flags in Old Spitalfields market
Union jack flags and bunting in Old Spitalfields Market in London 1938  (Fox Photos/Hulton Archive)

After the great fire of London, the market was made official by King Charles II. It began operating on Thursdays and Saturdays in Spital Square. It provided fresh produce, mainly fruits and vegetables.

 
Market Sellers
Oranges packed into cartons at the London Fruit Exchange, Spitalfields in 1929 (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

 

Rubbish left behind by market traders (Evening Standard)

By 1666, traders had begun operating beyond the city gates. The Truman Brewery opened in 1669. By 1682, King Charles II granted John Balch a Royal Charter giving him the right to hold a market.

The market’s success was clear. Following the edict of Nantes in 1685, Hugenots fleeing France settled in Spitalfields and brought their silk weaving skills. Most of their majestic houses are still standing in the conservation area of Fournier Street. Today these houses are home to many artists including Gilbert and George.

Display of potatoes in the market
A display of potatoes at the stand of James Ruane & Sons at Spitalfields Market in 1928 (J. Gaiger/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The Irish weavers came in the mid 1700’s. Spitalfields became a parish in 1720 when Hawkesmoor’s Christ Church was consecrated.

East European Jews followed and from the 1800s to 1970. The area became one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe. There were an estimated of 40 synagogues.

In the seventies, a thriving Bangladeshi community flourished. They brought new cultures, trades and businesses – including the Brick Lane restaurant district. 

Spitalfields building from the outside
Spitalfields Market’s exterior 1938 (Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive)

It was the major centre for sale of fresh produce. Trade happened most days of the week.

After the 1820’s it fell into a decline, gaining a reputation as a cheap area encouraging the numerous waves of immigrants. Former market trader, Rober Horner saw the market’s potential. He started to work on a new building – completed in 1893.

Businessman buying flowers from seller
A businessman buys flowers in Spitalfields market in 1936 (Evening Standard)

By 1920, the city of London had acquired control of the market. For the next 60 years, its reputation grew and so did traffic in the streets around it. With no clear room for expansion, the market moved in 1991 to Leyton.

Today, the area is a coveted place to live in. Offering great links to the city and plenty of things to do everyday of the week.

See our properties in the area.

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