The Spitalfields Market, just east of the City of London on Commercial Street, has existed in one form or another since 1638. The existing market hall was built in 1887 but a new extension, airily contemporary in contrast to the brick-and-iron heaviness of the old hall, recently opened. Apparently, the annex replaces part of an outdoor trading area, the rest of which has been given over to a complex of Norman Foster-designed office buildings. It also reduced the market’s overall number of trading stalls in favour of new permanent retail spaces that appear to have been leased largely to chain eateries.
Already, the Spitalfields Market serves a diminished role—its wholesale fruit and vegetable business moved to a new East London market in 1991—and the twin forces of gentrification and development pressure could conceivably turn it into something akin to Boston’s Quincy Market, which is to say a pale imitation of an actual public market. Still, the Spitalfields Market remains just that. For the time being, at least, it is a hive of daily activity as nearby residents shop for groceries, office workers line up for cheap lunches and tourists and gawkers like me stand back, watching it all.
Tags: Exploring the City, London, Markets, Shopping, Streetlife, United Kingdom