Guide to East London

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East End Markets

Trafalgar Way, Isle of Dogs, E14
Hours: 5am - 8:30am Tues - Sat
Tel: (0) 171 987 1118
DLR: West India Quay, Blackwall

The original Billingsgate Market traded in Lower Thames Street for 900 years, between Tower Bridge and London Bridge for some 900 years.

Famous for fish and bad language, it moved to a renovated warehouse in the West India Docks in January 1982. The clock in the middle of the main market area is a fibre glass copy of the original. One of the few relics transferred was the old Billingsgate Bell.

The market sells some two hundred tons of every type of fish and other seafood daily to the public, hotels, restaurants and wholesalers.

Shoreditch, E1
Hours: 8am - 2pm Sun
Tube: Shoreditch

This sprawling market, off the Bethnal Green Road, is an East End institution. In medieval times bricks and tiles were manufacturered in Brick Lane. In the 18th Century, farmers used to sell their livestock and produce here.

In today's Brick Lane you'll find leather jackets, cheap jewellery, second hand merchandise, bric-a-brac, furniture, tools, footwear, clothes, fruit and vegetables and a jellied eel stand. Under and close by the Shoreditch rail bridge, it's like being on the set of the BBC's East Enders television programme where there's 'under the arches' lock-ups. Walk down Cheshire Street to find indoor warehouses full of junk, second hand and household goods, collectables, books and cheap cassettes.

In Sclater Street there's a predominance of pet foods, provisions, electrical goods and tools. Try Cygnet Street for bicycles, meat, fruit, vegetables and frozen food.

Brick Lane is a place to find a good curry restaurant where you can take your own beer or wine ! Close to the Bethnal Green Road, at 159 Brick Lane you'll find the famous Beigel Bakery that is open 24 hours a day.

To the north of Brick Lane lies Club Row. In the days before the RSPCA and animal welfare this was the haunt of animal traders and bird dealers, it was the market for dogs, particularly puppies, cats and reptiles. Rats were also for sale as live bait for dogs to be used in the fighting pits attached to many East End pubs.

Tower Hamlets, EC2
Hours: 9am - 5pm Mon - Fri
Tube: Bank, Monument

Successor of the Columbia Market, a short lived market opened in 1869 by philanthropist Baroness Burdett-Coutts in an attempt to wean the costermongers from the streets.

Today's tiny street Flower Market sells everything from seeds, to herbs, bedding plants, garden schrubs, houseplants and cut flowers. You can also buy three foot tall garden gnomes and various garden accessories. Nearby there are antiques and craft shops. You are also close to Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane Markets.

Columbia Road, E2
Hours: 7am - 2pm Sun
Tube: Bethnal Green, Shoreditch

In the shadow of the famous Lloyds of London Building, this City of London Street. Constructed of cast iron and stone, Leadenhall Arcade was completed in 1881 and retains many original shop fronts.

Dickens referred to this market in Nicholas Nickleby as a place to buy new laid eggs. Today it specialises in good quality game, cheese, fish, meat, fruit and vegetables, and the prices reflect this.

Aldgate, E1
Hours: Sun 9am- 2pm, Wentworth Street: Mon - Fri 10am - 2:30pm
Tube: Liverpool Street, Aldgate East

Petticoat Lane marked the boundary between the City of London and the East End which was formerly in the County of Middlesex. Because of the different administrative and financial controls, trading developed between the two areas and a street market began here in Elizabethan times when its name was Hog Lane, because this is where pigs were sold. The Sunday market grew out of observance of the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday.

Amongst the bargains hanging up on the rails were second hand goods, hence the expression 'hand me downs'. Petticoats were a major fashion item for all classes of women and clothing was important in the market, giving the street its name.

To avoid reference to women's underwear, the Victorians in 1846 renamed Petticoat Lane to Middlesex Street . This market is one of the most famous with more than a thousand stalls spread over Middlesex Street, Wentworth Street and surrounding roads.

At the Aldgate East end of the market, there is a large area devoted to leather jackets. Prices are rarely shown, so you should bargain with the trader for the best price, particularly if you're paying with cash. The market is also well known for its cut-price fashion clothes, jewellery, china, toys, textiles, household gadgets and electrical items.

'Fying Pan Alley', pictured right is at the opposite end of 'The Lane' close to Liverpool Street. It got its name from the ironmongers who used frying pans to identify their premises.
Smithfield, EC1
Hours: Mon - Fri 5am - 10:30pm
Tube: Barbican, Farringdon

Smithfield, or 'Smoothfield' was a place of public execution for over 400 years. Witches, heretics and religious martyrs were burned, roasted or boiled alive here.

Located just outside the City Walls, there was a horse market here in the Middle Ages and in 1638 a cattle market was established under Royal Charter. The phrase 'like a bull in a china shop' is probably derived from when drunken drovers and herdsmen caused their cattle to stampede on their way to market, the beasts trying to take refuge in shops and houses.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 stopped at a point close to the market. It was here that all the debris from the fire was piled up.

Today, Smithfield is known as London's largest wholesale meat market. One of the scenes in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' was filmed at St. Bartolomews Church, close to this market.
Spitalfields, E1
Hours: Mon - Fri 11am - 3:30pm
Sun 10am - 3pm
Tube: Shoreditch

Old Spitalfields Market on Commercial Street was the location of a medieval hospital and priory of St. Mary Spital founded in 1197. Set among fields on the edge of the City, it provided shelter to travellers, hence 'Spital fields'. It remained fields until Charles II founded the fruit, flower and vegetable market in 1682.

Under the cover of a huge glass roof, the present buildings erected between 1885 and 1893 have recently been revamped. The shops and indoor market stalls present a large range of arts and crafts, including bric-a-brac, books, antiques, fabrics and clothes. The food court offers an excellent range of cafes and restaurants selling foods from all around the world at low prices. On Sunday there's an organic food market selling fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes and meat.

The original fruit and vegetable market was on the old outskirts of London. Because London has expanded so much, this location became increasingly impractical and the market has now moved to Temple Mills, Leyton, East London.
Mile End, E3
Hours: 8:30am - 5:30pm Tues, Thurs & Sat
Britrail: Romford

A large, established East End market where you can buy fabrics, shoes, boots, linens, new and second hand clothes, fruit and vegetables. Most fashion tastes are available on the market stalls or in the shops. There are numerous pie and mash shops close to the market.
Romford Town, Essex
Hours: 8:30am - 5:30pm Tues, Thurs & Sat
Tube: Mile End

Romford is situated fourteen miles from the City of London on the A12 primary road route to the country's oldest town, Colchester.

The town has had a market for over 750 years. In the 13th century, King Henry III used the distance sheep could walk in a day as the main criteria for deciding whether Romford was entitled to hold a market. Since there was no other market within this six mile distance the Sheriff of Essex was ordered by Royal Charter of the King to proclaim throughout his county the 'holding of a market at Romford on Wednesdays, with all the liberties and customs belonging to the said market'.

To this day, the Charter stands as a legal bedrock that no other market can be set up within six miles. Formerly owned by the Crown, today's market is managed by Havering Council. Market days are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday every week.

Romford, once famous for its beer is rich in history, though, like its brewery only traces of evidence remain to be seen. You can still experience the hustle and bustle of market days when you can buy most things you'd expect. The quacks from Hoxton and Whitechapel and purveyors of medicines have long gone, as have the buyers and sellers of poultry, horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and every conceivable domestic animal. A very recent newcomer to Romford is PetsMart¨, Angel Way who have quite a diverse selction of prospective pets for sale.

The Market place was once a recruiting ground for the Military Services. No longer can you take the Queen's shilling and become one of the gallant 'flat irons' but instead you could be asked to participant in yet another consumer survey.


In 1865 Romford Market's growth in importance as a livestock market and as a staging post for an increasing number of coaches between London and East Anglia was reflected by the number of pubs in a relatively small area.

Market Place, the South side. A public house has been on the site of the present 'Bull' since 1660. It was rebuilt by the 1880s. A short walk south was the 'Windmill and Bells' which was closed in April 1906 and then the 'White Swan', partly dating from 1594, commemorated in Swan Walk at the western edge of the present Debenham's Department store. The 'Duke of Wellington' formerly known as the 'Blucher's Head Inn' was demolished in 1967 to make way for a Littlewoods Department store, The King's Head Inn, a large Victorian building, replaced one of 1714, on the site of the Market Place branch of Boots the Chemist. Behind this building was the King's Hall, a popular dance venue. Past 'Boots' in an ancient building was the King's Arms. The pub lost its licence in about 1889, alledgedly because its patrons' behaviour was less than regal ! The final pub on the south side, roughly on the eastern part of the Co-op bank site, was the 'Three Crowns Inn', a 16th century building demolished in 1878.

Market Place, the North side. As we crossing over the Market Place we find, at its edge, the Golden Lion, which originated in 1440 and was once owned in 1600 by the Elizabethan philospher and statesman, Francis Bacon. Walk back into the Market Place and you have 'The Lamb,' rebuilt after being badly damaged in a serious fire in 1852 which swept the corner where Lloyds Bank now is. Next to St. Edward the Confessor's Church is a Church House which was also a place of alcoholic refreshment ! This house, known as the Chequers, dates from the 15th century was also called the Cock and Bell Inn. It was closed down at the turn of the this century and its licence was transferred.

'The Dolphin coaching inn stood on the site of the C&A Department Store. This pub was built in 1630 with a galleried yard and extensive stables. It was demolished in 1900. At the site of the west edge of the indoor Shopping Hall once stood the Queen's Head, which was another coaching stop. A particular favourite with cattlemen was the Pig in the Pound, formerly known as the Queen and Crown. This pub, pictured above, is now in use as a ladies clothes shop, at the end of the line of shops. On the grassed area alongside near the Dolphin Centre roundabout stood, until 1875, a pub called the 'Drovers Arms'. A pub with a 'bad reputation'.
Walthamstow, E17
Hours: 9am - 5pm Mon - Sat
Tube: Walthamstow Central

Over one mile long, this is the longest street market in Britain. It has over 500 stalls selling everything from food to crockery, leather and fabrics.
Green Street, E13 (Queen's Road, East Ham)
Leather Lane, EC1
Ridley Road, E8
North Weald, Essex

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