Columbia Road Market 67
This is George Gladwell selling his Busy Lizzies from the back of a van at Columbia Rd in the early seventies, drawing the attention of bystanders to the quality of his plants and captivating his audience with a bold dramatic gesture of presentation worthy of Hamlet holding up a skull.
Last week, I published George’s account of trading at the market since 1949 and this week it is my delight to show a prime selection from his personal collection of photographs, which have never been seen before. There is an appealing air of informality about the flower market as it is portrayed in these pictures. The metal trolleys that all the traders use today are barely in evidence, instead plants are sold from trestle tables or directly off the ground – pitched as auctions – while seedlings come straight from the greenhouse in wooden trays, and customers carry away their bare-rooted plants wrapped in newspaper. Consequently, the atmosphere is of a smaller local market than we know today, with less stalls and just a crowd of people from the neighbourhood. Whilst you can see the boarded-up furniture factories, that once defined Bethnal Green, and Ravenscroft Buildings, subsequently demolished to create Ravenscroft Park, both still in evidence in the background - I hope sharp-eyed readers may also recognise a few traders who continue working in Columbia Rd Market today.
During the week, I had the pleasure to visit George & his wife Margaret at their beautiful smallholding surrounded by trees, at the end of a lane in the Langdon Hills, and George searched through a lifetime’s photo collection to find these beautiful portraits that he took of his fellow traders at Columbia Rd one Summer long ago. Over the years, many thousands of images have been taken of Columbia Rd Flower Market, but George Gladwell’s relaxed photographs are special because they capture the random poetry and spontaneous drama of the market seen through the eyes of an insider.
Read George Gladwell’s account of trading since 1949 in Columbia Road Market 66
The magnificently named Carol Eden.
Fred Harnett, Senior
George Burridge, Junior
Jim Burridge, Senior
Photographs copyright © George Gladwell