For our first talk of 2018 the Society had something slightly different – trespassing on London Historians’ patch, Dr Peter Jones of the Centre for Metropolitan History gave a ‘straight’ history talk on the public street markets of the 19th century. However – as with so much about the capital – what happened then has had an influence on now, and several of the features of the market and the lessons of their growth have parallels for today and the planning of the future.
Peter looked at how the rapid growth of the capital in the 18th and 19th centuries meant that a large proportion of the new suburbs – particularly those new areas beyond the traditional confines of the City walls and the City of Westminster – were some distance from the existing licensed, regulated, ‘fixed’ markets, and needed traders (either barrowmen or dealers carrying produce on their backs) to supply food at the lowest prices. This saw the growth of unlicensed street markets in areas such as Whitechapel, Strutton Ground, ‘The Brill’ (Somers Town), the New Cut and Whitecross Street. These were often of some considerable size – over 200 stalls were counted in Whitecross Street on a typical day.