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At the Old Spitalfields Fruit & Vegetable Market

September 5, 2010
by the gentle author

In the last eighteen months of the Fruit & Vegetable Market in Spitalfields, young photographers Mark Jackson & Huw Davies set out to record the life of the market that operated on this site for over three centuries, before it closed forever in 1991. As recent graduates, Mark was working in a restaurant at the time and Huw was a bicycle courier. Without any financial support for their ambitious undertaking, they saved up all their money to buy cameras and rolls of film, converting a corner of their tiny flat into a darkroom.

“It was quite a struggle,” Mark Jackson confided to me, “because we weren’t earning a lot of money. But Spitalfields fired our imaginations. We caught the last tube to Liverpool St and spent the night there taking photographs, before heading into work next morning.”

The result of their passionate labours is a portfolio of more than four thousand images that has recently been acquired by the Bishopsgate Institute, due to be shown there in a major exhibition next year. It is my privilege to be able to show you a small selection of these phenomenal pictures that have never been seen before, as the first glimpse of an undiscovered photographic treasure trove.

I have the greatest respect for anyone who sets out to pursue idealistic projects such as this at great cost to themselves of money, time and labour. In this case, I am equally impressed by the quality of Mark & Huw’s photographs as distinguished social documentary, unsentimental yet infused with affectionate poetry too. Today, we are the fortunate beneficiaries of their selfless enthusiasm over all those months when they stayed up each night to take pictures and worked each day to buy film. It sounds like a beautiful story in retrospect but I have no doubt it took plenty of determination to carry the project through in isolation. I know that the market traders warmed to the young photographers and I think, in part, this accounts for relaxed intimate nature of some of these images, because the traders respected the commitment that Mark & Huw demonstrated, turning up night after night.

This particular set of images take us on a cinematic journey from the busy nocturnal world, when the market was active, through dawn into the early morning when the drama subsided. Mark & Huw photographed a dignified gallery of both the market traders and the homeless people, who were drawn by the fire that always burned to alleviate their discomfort ever since the market was granted its charter. We no longer see any of these characters in Spitalfields. These men would look displaced here in the renovated market today, they are soulful faces from a universe that is gone. When I walk through the Spitalfields Market at night now, it feels like an empty theatre, lacking the performance of the nightly drama that ran from 1638 when Charles I signed the licence to commence trading.

Even though Mark & Huw took their pictures only twenty years ago, they describe a society that feels closer to the world Dickens knew than our own present tense, ten years into the twenty-first century. Inspired by Tom Hopkinson and Bert Hardy’s work at Picture Post, these photographs were to become the first of a series documenting all the markets of London, that might have been a lifetime’s vocation for Mark & Huw. It was not to be. Life intervened and without any support the projected sequence was abandoned. Mark became a writer and Huw is now a teacher – they each have lives beyond their nascent photographic enterprises – but they deserve to be proud of these vital pictures because they are an honourable contribution to the worthy canon of British documentary photography.

Photographs copyright © Mark Jackson & Huw Davies

115 Responses leave one →
  1. Derek Brown permalink
    September 5, 2010

    This is beautiful. Reminds me of when we lived there. The hustle and bustle of the market and the brewery.

  2. September 5, 2010

    My city once had a thriving outdoor market with rows of small timbered lock-ups. As a schoolboy I used to work for a wholesale fruiterer helping the lorry driver to load up and deliver fruit & veg to local businesses. There were three main markets, two indoor and one outdoor with various stalls lining the main market street. There was also a fish boat moored nearby where my cousins and I would buy a pint of winkles every Saturday afternoon and then sit on the bench nearby to ‘winkle’ them out with a pin. During the schooI Christmas break, I had a pitch in a small hotel car park selling Christmas trees. It was up to me what I charged for them within a given price range and dependent on the size of each tree. I used to add a shilling or two bob extra as my ‘ahem’ commission. I loved that job and often lament the passing of that era. The market is now a sad reflection of its former self with only two stalls selling fruit & veg. The area is now covered in the ubiquitous pound shops/charity shops and those businesses that open for a specific season and then close just as quickly. I’d love to see more of the photos from this archive.

  3. Murray Bateman permalink
    September 8, 2010

    Great photos of a time of trading that has now changed its image forever. I like all the wooden carts and hard working characters. Now its all aiming to be stainless steel and glass that just dosen’t have the same character and buzz of an old school market.

  4. jeannette permalink
    September 9, 2010

    all i want is a room somewhere
    far away from the cold night air
    with one enormous chair
    oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?

  5. September 12, 2010

    Wow these photographs are beautiful, I especially love the image of the chap on the phone.

  6. October 28, 2010

    thanks for this walk back in time, i lived in peabody trust flats, folgate street and commercial street ,i used to play in the markets,1950`s when the roads were wood blocks & covered with a bitch coating.
    great days big playground them markets .

  7. Theresa permalink
    November 6, 2010

    These pictures are amazing and sad for me at the same time, they bring back so many memories for me of my dad Bernard who worked within the market for many years. Unfortunately my dad died a few years ago, but my memories of him and the market as it was in the pictures I will always treasure!

  8. Huw Davies permalink
    February 12, 2011

    I helped Mark with take these photos. It’s twenty years ago now but I can somehow still feel the weight of my old Nikon underneath my coat. My neck got stiff and my eyes became sore as the night wore on. We used to promise ourselves a tea from the polystyrene cups and a cheese roll from the white paper bags – after the sun had come up – of course. For me the market will always be black and white. I would spend literally hours stood in particular positions around the markets waiting. My favourite were the fire with its occasional visitor seeking its warmth but also the lorry park with the angular shadows and dark figures climbing down from the cabs (I tried desperately to get this shot but it always illuded me-just a silhouette-and a street light portraying the effort). I’ve not returned to see the market since but I have had a look on sreet view – things change I guess – progress and new livelihoods. Yes, it was sad to witness the end of the market and to hear all the talk about it and particularly in the months after it had closed to see the shutters down. I hope at some stage to return to see the market again – maybe buy something from one of the stalls. I was really pleased to hear that Bishopsgate were interested in the pictures and I too would love to see them again as I’ve no copies! Just one final thought which is that I still feel privileged to have been welcome around the market and thanks to all those old traders. Regards Huw -Beverley – East Yorkshire.

  9. DAVE BARRY permalink
    March 2, 2011

    When i was at school in the early eighties i had a saturday job at a green grocers in Tottenham along Lordship Lane, i used to go to the market most saturdays with the owner of the shop and i have to say that it was always an exciting place to visit, i have very fond memories of the market and still remember the smell and atmosphere of the place. I recently revisited the site after many years and was saddened to see that very little remains of the market. These photos are a great reminder of a part of London’s history that is sadly gone forever.

  10. Sara permalink
    May 18, 2011

    Our father had a business at Old Spitalfields, and then New Spitalfields. It was started by his father, and it was part of our family, always, as was the area, its mythology, and change. Going back there now is comforting and jarring; would it be possible to make contact with Mark and Huw to see if there any images of our stands/father? Many thanks

  11. Sara permalink
    May 18, 2011

    p.s. They are amazing images, and capture the spirit and life of this nocturnal male world.

  12. September 6, 2011

    Well, this is something. I stumbled across this site when looking for images to show people what Spitalfields used to be like, for a blog-write I’m doing alerting to people of the Origins show which is now happening in Spitalfields. When I was a student living in London in 1989, I used to stay out late going to gigs and I sometimes went to Spitalfields before morning to buy some food. I haven’t been there since it closed as a fruit and veg market….it’s going to be really wierd going back to the place with it’s new character. Wonderful photos that are full of life. This website is great, fascinating, I look forward to many more hours perusing it.

  13. Stew Bradley permalink
    October 20, 2011

    Now this as brought a huge lump to my throat, as well as taking me back in time, if the hours i spent in the Old Spitalfields market could be added up and turned into days etc i would think i must have spent years in the place. When i was a 10 year old lad skipping school and during school holidays then as a lorry driver myself delivering there, nipping up to the old golden gloves for a brew during the night or to Dinos cafe or sometimes the cafe in the Cage for a brew and dog roll.. ah the memories fantastic photographs and a trip down memory lane thats worth a mint .. thankyou so much .

  14. October 28, 2011

    I have loved reading all the comments , brought back some lovely memerys . Most of my familey went to spitlefiels to by produce .i was surpriesd there was no photoes of the hot ells stall that was under the clock in the market that was our first call .Iwas only seven years old my first time there .And carried on for the next 15 years . Moved to suffolk ass a lorry driver was back delivering produce to RUANS TOMMY CORNWALL ALSO POEPARTS .Loved it all…

  15. David Williams permalink
    January 17, 2012

    Coming from a family of Greengrocers of at last three generations I really appreciate the atmosphere that has been caught in these evocative photographs. My mother remembers taking the bus with her sisters from Wood Green to Spitafields to pick up boxes of tomatoes for her father’s shop. H G Orme and Son in High Road Wood Green. I remember picking up fruit and vegatables at 2 am with my uncles who enjoyed jellied eels whilst “shopping”. Would love to see more

  16. Deborah Stephens permalink
    March 3, 2012

    My earliest memory,aged about 3 years in 1954 is Spittalfields market . Several evenings a week my father would take a load of produce from our farm in essex,My mother and I would sometimes go with him.Hes now 86 and has been thrilled to see these photographs, wonderful!!!!

    My earliest memory is of spitalfields market,aged about 3 in the early 50s.My mum and I often went with dad when he took a load of produce from the farm,I remember the market policeman and chasing the market cat.My father is now 86 and has been thrilled to see the photographs,THANKYOU

    My earl

  17. Pilar permalink
    March 21, 2012

    Amazing to suddenly come across a photo of my dad. He’s the man on the phone at CT Kipping. He would have loved these photos and the Spitalfields Life website.

  18. Tracey Keay permalink
    May 6, 2012

    My father now 84 worked at this market from the age of 14. It has brought a lump to my throat to see these images as he was always very private about his life there and I wonder if there are any more images taken from before he retired 20 years ago.

  19. alan templeman permalink
    July 2, 2012

    unknown 16 is my older brother harry templeman who worked in the market from the age of 14 . and ended up as a cart minder in the new market.

  20. Sandra Halifax permalink
    September 21, 2012

    Re the comment of D Williams – H G Orme & Sons – I lived in a flat above their shop at 327 High Road Wood Green and I have fond memories of beetroot being boiled (I loved the smell) and their cat which was always having kittens which I as a little girl was allowed to play with.

  21. December 20, 2012

    My! These images really took me back! Lovely photographs, lovely people. I worked in Crispin Street in the late 70s/early 80s & used to traipse the market area (between the bonfire corner and The Ripper) late at night. Among best memories, embedded in my bones, were the early-morning sounds of the Market coming alive in the grey light of day… market porters shouting to each other & the sound of engines thrumming. I can hear it still, decades later. Thank you for publishing these: so MANY visual histories never ever see the light of day.
    I discovered the Spitalfields Life site only this year – a truly splendid and remarkable labour of love…

  22. Jeannette S permalink
    March 12, 2013

    I recently bought an old wooden box from a flea market (to keep boot polish/brushes in) and printed on its two long sides was the name C.T. Kipping (Spitalfields) Ltd and ‘Brussell Sprouts’ on each end. I loved the box which had loads of character. Having searched the company name on Google I came up with this site and the fantastic photos. They are really nostalgic. J

  23. March 16, 2013

    i am the grandaughter of ben thomas married to rose sons robert a (jim) earnest (happeny )marie and kath daughters . my dad jim and ernie took over from grandad ben now PETER runs PRESCOTT and THOMAS i am hes 74 YEAR OLD SISTER BARBARA THOMAS what a blast from the past THANK YOU

  24. June 6, 2013

    nice to see these old photos of spitalfields we used to deliver overnight to the stands of A MAY and H&D HEADING with our old commer ts3 artics all handball loads with ropes and sheets. the down and outs would have a fire going on the corner oppersite A MAY’S stand on really cold nights always remember the old empty Victorian houses around there at that time with open or broken windows old torn net curtains and old wallpaper flapping and hanging off the walls and wondered what lifes had lived there…… spitalfields would have been the second market of the night for us first would be stratford after spitalfields it would be the borough then on to covent garden and finish at Brentford sometimes we tip at Greenwich market. it was a way of life that has now gone and and also a very hard way to make a living but I,ll go back to it tommrow if I could..

  25. eddie permalink
    July 17, 2013

    picture: [unknown 3]. looking at the location i am sure this was Appells. mick was the trader who used to buy in bits and pieces and sell to the small traders at a small profit. this stand was just across the way from johns cafe where traders used to park up. i have several polaroid photos from 1980’s of staff from the market. i will share these if someone can tell me how to post them on this great site.

  26. michaela permalink
    August 15, 2013

    I just bought a lovely C T Kipping melon crate. I would love to know the address they traded from. Can anyone help?

  27. Bill Haynes permalink
    November 3, 2013

    I began work in Spitalfields in 1961 as a tea boy / trainee fruit buyer, and I’m still supplying wholesalers at the New Spitalfields Market on Hackney Marshes..52 years later!
    It meant I knew almost every person within the market and the London Fruit Exchange.
    Back then greengrocers and street market traders had about 90% of the high street trade, and now it’s about 10%, with expensive supermarkets almost in complete control !
    The photos are wonderful. I’d love the chance to see the main collection of 3,000 – ?

    The man on the telephone at CT Kipping was David (Kipping) boss of the Company, although not sure if his surname was actually Kipping…he was a really nice man and a pleasure to do business with, address was CT Kipping Ltd. Brushfield Street , Spitalfleds Market, London E.1.
    He was related to another wholesaler named Jenkins.
    Any other questions concerning the market please post and I’ll try to help.
    Bill Haynes

  28. leefer (@leefer3) permalink
    January 8, 2014

    Cannot get enough of this site…brilliant pics with faces that have seen life.

  29. Romany Rose permalink
    January 9, 2014

    Hi ,Thankyou to a wonderful person who sent me the link up to this site,What memories you have evoked of people and places that werre familiar to me has a child and teenager.

  30. Diane Brown permalink
    February 1, 2014

    Can anyone help me with a family name called Jeakins that traded in the market in the 1930s to approx. 1960s

  31. Amanda Campbell permalink
    March 18, 2014

    I stumbled across these photos whilst trying to find out about my grandfather’s working life in preparation for his funeral. He was a porter at the old market and used to take me there regularly as a child. I have fond memories of all the characters there. He was 94 when he died this week and I recall him being happiest working at the market. Because of these photos the working life of my grandfather, William ‘Billy’ Edwards and his brother, Henry, will always be remembered by generations after him. Thank you.

  32. joyce richardson permalink
    March 29, 2014

    looking for family of joseph Richardson wholesaleveg and fruit in1935 or around that timecan you help me thank you joyce Richardson ps he was my fatherinlaw

  33. March 29, 2014

    joseph Richardson he was owner wholesaler veg andfruit hada big green lorrycant remember the name on it also told he had a shop on waterloo station selling exotic fruit joyce richardson

  34. April 27, 2014

    ihavethe name on the lorry of joseph ritchardson it was whitfields hoping someone knows this family joyce ps also had a daughter with polio regards joyce

  35. Melvyn Hyams permalink
    August 11, 2014

    Wow, I’m amazed, just looking round the Internet at the “old East End”, and came upon this site!!

    My family were in Spitalfields Market for many years, I too worked there when I left school in 1960. We were at 36, Brushfield Street, next door to the “Blue Cafe”. My Grandfather was nicknamed Doctor Hyams, because he used to “doctor” the samples to make them look good !!!

    I have many happy memories from those days, fun with all the porters and drivers, the banter etc. I did my growing up there (very quickly!” The hustle and bustle is something I will never forget.

    I seem to recall that there was someone who had a fruit business in Southend (I think) called Vic Chandler, and the Vic Chandler in the TV adverts for the gambling site, looks so much like him, I wondered if it may be his son. Anyone know?

  36. August 12, 2014

    hi i havebeen trying to trace johseph richardson my husbands father he lived near the market i think every one knew him as joe i dont know if there are any thing on the stall holders in the 30s or there children and granchildren i knw he had 2 brothers that had a greengrocers in the broadway bexleyheath ther names wherejack and john also a bubbles he left his wife in eltham also had another family in london hope someone can help regards joyce

  37. Kathleen neale permalink
    August 26, 2014

    Replying to Steve Dearman. My dad used to work at A May until he retired in his 70’s during the 1970’s. Also my brothers John and Terry used to work in the market as well. There surname was Dobinson. He came home every day and always had a story to tell about this person or that person. He used to mention about someone called Snakey ?. He never drove but we lived in Dagenham and he used to get the early morning bus at 3 30am with all the women. Office cleaners that worked in the City. Forgot to mention my dad’s name was Jim Dobinson. I think his nickname was Dobbo. He used to have me and my mum laughing our heads off at the goings on there. Also we never went without fruit and veg ! Certainly all the characters he spoke about we won’t see the like of again.

  38. Cliff permalink
    September 24, 2014

    In reply to Melvyn Hyams, I remember you, your father and your grandfather very well, I also worked next to the ‘Blue Cafe’ (Florrie,Hilda,Joe & Albert) for nearly 30 years at Williams. We both had the same strawberry sender from Hampshire and there was quite a bit of competition from both of us !! Great memories eh, always something going on to keep us amused,great shame the market moved and lost its atmosphere. You probably recognise Lennie Williams in picture no. 3.

  39. September 25, 2014

    did you know joe richardson still trying to find relativeshe died in the 30s joyce

  40. September 25, 2014

    anyone know thejoseph richardson family 1930

  41. September 25, 2014

    isent there anypapers of people who had stalls late 20s into 1930

  42. Melvyn Scott permalink
    September 29, 2014

    In reply to Cliff. Of course I remember you, hope you are well. They were good times weren’t they, the life was great and I still look back with affection. Do you remember Robert in the Blue Cafe, he was always trying to teach me Italian !!!

    Did that bit that I wrote about Vic Chandler mean anything to you?

    Do you remember the Smiths from Southend? Siah (hope the spelling is correct!) Bobby and Billy always in their smart suits, and Sam Corduroy who always parked his lorry outside the Blue Cafe.

    So many memories going through my head, but can’t get them to come out !!!

    Kind Regards


  43. Melvyn Hyams permalink
    September 30, 2014

    Message for Cliff. Hi Cliff, should have said that I changed my surname some years ago !!


  44. cliff permalink
    October 4, 2014

    Re Melvyn Scott.
    Old Spitalfields Market-steeped in history & great memories. As far as Vic Chandler is concerned,I do remember a bookmaker who used to frequent the market,his name was Teddy Chandler & I believe he was a relation to Victor.Of course I remember the Smiths of Southend and I could probably name 100+ other greengrocers who we traded with,unfortunately none of them in existence any longer because of supermarkets.Another memory which comes to me which always amused me,do you remember shantob (probably spelt wrong) ,he had a small shop in Brushfield Street nearer the Bishopsgate end, every year near Christmas he would get his nuts up from the cellar and put them on display in the street and then return them to his cellar after the holidays,same nuts every year !!

  45. Melvyn Scott permalink
    October 6, 2014

    Hi Cliff.

    Of course I remember Chantob, we used to call him Lamb Chop (not to his face of course!!) Who was the guy that was always with Sam Corduroy? I can’t remember his name, it was like they were joined at the hip! Do you remember John Lyons? I am sure that someone said that he was accused of doing something very bad.

    I used to love the life in the market, up early, finish early, although towards the end of me being there (1968) it seemed to be dying because of the rise of the Supermarkets. That’s when I decided that it wasn’t for me anymore. Dad (Harry) packed up about a year or so later, and went to work for Verde. The Brinkworths were very nice people. When did you leave the market?

    Ah, the memories !!


  46. cliff permalink
    October 7, 2014

    Hi Melvyn
    I think the greengrocer who ‘accompanied’ Sam Corduroy was probably ‘Jockey’ Wakefield or possibly Bostock or Joe Holmes.
    You mentioned Lyons, did you not have a relation (uncle ?) who was a lorry driver and who used to deliver to J & J Lyons?
    I was in the market from 1962 until 1989.

  47. Melvyn Scott permalink
    October 7, 2014

    Hi Cliff,

    It was Bostock I was trying to think of, thanks for that. My uncle Lou, had a lorry, and was mainly dealing in coconuts, suppling fairs etc, not sure that he dealt with J.Lyons though.

    I starten going to the market when I was about three years old (1948) started work in 1960,and left in 1968. Oh ny goodness, I could talk to you all day !! Where do you live now?


  48. October 9, 2014

    hi ciff you seem to be about at the market around the time that joh richardsonn was abouti dont know if he got done for bigamyi am trying to find his other family lived over that way was there any jews or indians in that day that had stalls his family in bexleyheath wife eliabeth daughter joyce son ray ken also pat they got married in liverpool familt lived in eltham he was in the market for years deliverd all over london they all dispeared into the wood work tregards joyce

  49. cliff permalink
    October 10, 2014

    Sorry Joyce,before my time

  50. cliff permalink
    October 10, 2014

    melvyn………I remember Lou very well, he delivered 1000’s of christmas trees to Spitalfields Market every year…I’m still in London !

  51. October 11, 2014

    thanks cliff cant seem to trace that family any where i know he would be well gone now but i know he was an wholesaler there for years died when he still had the buisness his daughter is sstill alive shes 93 that is my husbands sister joyce but she keeps her cards close to her chest haha im in aussie long way from home thanks anyway regards joyce richardson

  52. cliff permalink
    October 11, 2014

    More interesting photos on this website….see the following..well worth a visit.

    ‘Night At The Spitalfields Market’ & ‘Spitalfield Market Nocturne’

  53. cliff permalink
    October 11, 2014

    Plus ,as above,

    ‘Spitalfields Market 1991’ & ‘Mark Jackson/Huw Davies portraits of the Spitalfields Market’

  54. Melvyn Scott permalink
    October 22, 2014

    Cliff, You are becoming an Authority on the subject !!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  55. Tracey Lyons permalink
    November 13, 2014

    Hi cliff, you spoke about John Lyons , if it’s the same John Lyons you were talking about , I can assure you he never done anything bad , he was a great man , a gentle giant , I sometimes went to the market with him , my uncle Bill Robbins used to go there too . Charlie Blue is a name I can remember , he was a porter there . I loved those days My Wonderful dad died in 2012 and I miss him every minute .

  56. cliff permalink
    November 23, 2014

    Hi Tracey,
    I think you have confused me with somebody else….It was somebody else who mentioned about a person named John Lyons who worked in the market,not me. I only replied that I knew somebody of this name but I can assure you that I did not infer anything bad about this person, back track on this forum and you will see that you were mistaken.

  57. Tracey Lyons permalink
    November 23, 2014

    Hi Cliff ,
    I’m sorry I should have directed that at Melvyn Scott , I wasn’t having a go just wanted to put the record straight , of course this May of been another John Lyons , and thinking about my dad was known as Charlie Lyons after he’s dad up the market . Anyway sorry for the confusion
    From Tracey Lyons

  58. stew bradley permalink
    December 2, 2014

    I would love to have some paranormal investigators go !! the atmosphere I feel would still be special .

  59. Bill Grandy permalink
    December 17, 2014

    Lyons Family, Auctions Gun Street. Mr. Julius Lyons, Joe Lyons Son, John lyons Grandson
    I used to attend the Auctions With Mr ROLAND HOPPER, Butcher and Hopper, who bought
    lots of parcels in the room. A Mr Capeless worked for Joe lyons, he was the account man.
    I remember. one of Joe Lyons porters “NAME NEDDY ” who was a “WEST HAM SUPPORTER ” great guy. Also I remember a lovely youg girl called “HILLARY ” who worked
    on the switch board, she was a good looking Girl. Anyone who remembers me, keep in touch
    From Bill GRANDY

  60. cliff permalink
    December 21, 2014

    Hi Bill,
    I can remember you on auction days at Joe Lyons when you were with Roland Hopper,simply because you were always laughing!!
    I worked in Gun Street at Williams for 25 years and knew Neddy very well, also remember the other workers in Lyons warehouse…Butchy, Charlie, Dickie, Lennie……..what a crew they were,always game for a laugh.
    Good days.

  61. cliff permalink
    January 7, 2015

    Melvyn Scott……..You may be interested in looking at Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields on this site and in particular at picture no.5, The photo is of ‘H.HYAMS’ in Brushfield Street,no 46a.

  62. January 8, 2015

    yes cliffi wouldi am still looking for histry on joseph richardson joyce

  63. Melvyn Scott (nee Hyams) permalink
    January 8, 2015

    Thanks for the message Cliff.

    I am amazed that there is a picture there of this. That was in Gun Street, opposite where you were, we used it as extra storage for stock. As it states, main entrance was around the corner at 36 Brushfield Street (would love a picture of that !!).

    Hope you are keeping well.

    Best Regards.

  64. Jilly Green permalink
    February 20, 2015

    It brought tears to my eyes, this was part of my world to drive a lorry to Spitalfields several nights a week to load up with fresh fruit and veg for my father and bring back to Norfolk for our Wholesale Business.I remember a lot of the stands and many more. Hursts, T/A Hilliard, May, Verde, Aberdeen and Stanton, Starns (Inside). It was the finest produce Kent Cauli’s and Apples,Plums.I remember the Meth Boys with their bonfires to keep warm or sleeping under cardboard.Charlie and George in the cage with their shed full of bargains,suits, overcoats etc.The little electric trolleys to bring produce out to us drivers, or the Costermongers Barrows, so many colourful characters, and the back street cafes where the boxers used to go,you could get a mug of tea and toast and dripping, and everybody whistling and full of banter, an era gone by, would love to see more, hard work but rewarding.

  65. Jilly Green permalink
    February 20, 2015

    Just read some of the comments, and more memories have come flooding back, like some of the other people I also delivered Potatoes, Carotts, Parsnips by the 24 ton lorry load overnight all handball to the different stands, I would start at Stratford Mkt, then Spitalfields, Borough Mkt (Security was the Beadles)New Covent Gdn (Nine Elms), and onto Western International at Heston, sometimes Greenwich Mkt, or Kings Cross Mkt, all handballed on 3 sheets and straw in between in winter and dolly ropes which I can still tie, that was in the 1970’s – 2000 when I was a 20 + year old girl, which was hard graft loading 16 tons spuds, then to unload it, night after night,and probably change a wheel on the way home as well, and the breakfast at Red Lodge.

  66. February 21, 2015

    hi jilly did you or your family know joh richardson he was a wholesale frout and veg but in the 30 to 35-36 he died had brothers frank they had a shop in the broadway bexleyheath trying to trace family i nderstand hehad another family in london my half was was eltham and blackfen sidcup i am in aussie my husband is ray richardson hope you or your family heard of joh regards joce

  67. February 21, 2015

    anyone know the man iin pic 25-01 he looks like my husband joyce

  68. Ian permalink
    May 7, 2015

    Hi. I was speaking to my dad yesterday and he told me that he used to help his gran on her fruit stall on the market. He was born in 1928, so it would have been prior to 1939 when he was evacuated to the West Riding of Yorkshire. His name is Thomas (Tommy) William Sewell and his gran’s name was Charlotte Caroline Sewell (nee Hawkins) 1879 – 1972. In 1933 they both lived at 10 Lamprell Street, Poplar, London, England. Does anyone recall the stall or the people? Thank you 🙂

  69. Peter Chalkley permalink
    May 21, 2015

    I used to work for C.T.Kipping ,as shown in the pic ,the goveners name is David Jenkins & his brother Alfie.i started in “the fields ” in 1959 and retired from the new market in 2007.

  70. Colleen Royce permalink
    May 22, 2015

    My dad worked at Spitalfields for many years. I remember the children’s Christmas parties where we all got lovely presents from Father Christmas (aka Terry Turner). My dad worked for Pouparts and Ridley and Houlding. His name was Ronnie Edney. I also remember going to watch the Spitalfields football team play. Jimmy Pollock is one of the team names that I can still remember. I also remember my dad bring friends with somebody called Johnny Hayes!

  71. October 17, 2015

    Looking for a Nathan Scheffer, fruitere and Greengrocer, I found him in an archive as follows:
    Busnach Moses of 81 Brune House Spitalfields London died 26 march 1956 at Mile End Hospital Stepney London Probate London 2 May to Nathan Scheffer fruiterer and greengrocer. Effects 162 Pound.

    Love your site and photos, it’s nice to see the neighbourhood my far away relatives lived.
    In Amsterdam lot of Busnach’s were market people in fruit and vegetables.

    Keep up the good work.

  72. October 24, 2015

    It’s a shame that the wholsale fruit & veg market ‘has by and large been replaced by the large supermarkets and the packhouse’s have now that replaced ‘ loading direct from the field.or farm… back when the wholsale fruit trade was king ‘fresh meant fresh
    Mostly everything that was picked that day was in the market that night’ or at the very latest the early hours of the nxt morning ‘yes some crap did go out that had sat around from the back of the stand once in a while and a few strokes were pulled but that was the game………..’ I speak as someone who hauled direct from the farm or field potatoes ether from the field or clamp.. ‘celery that when delivered in to Covent garden or spitalfield s still had black fenland peat soil around it to keep it fresh……from the farmer
    To The salesmen in the markets knew his produce ‘years and years of experience and friendship with customers going back decades was gone and
    replaced with what? You can’t smell most of the so called produce today
    Everything’s based on shelf life rock hard black plums etc
    When a lorry pulled in to spitalfield s under the clock on a summers night you smelt the load because in was under rope and sheet ‘now its forced chilled air even with stuff like onions theres no smell. back then when you loaded say potatoes’ you knew if you were going to get the load rejected at the stand by watching the buyer shooting the sample on a Hessian sack. he knew his stuff. It could be to bold (lbakers) or to many mids or chats (small) spuds or worse wets. (Rotten) within a down went the price….that’s all in the past now But I will take my memories of the fruit markets to my grave. I will never forget the smells and sounds and colour s from those early years ‘i now know how luckly i was to experience those years
    When the greengrocers went ‘so did the wholesale markets and with that went choice. Now the supermarkets king’ but I believe one day the public
    Will not just settle for e.g snooker ball rock hard plums from thousands of miles away and stored and chilled and never ripen. Who knows one day the public might realise its being fed with trashy taste less produce with little or no goodness in it just shelf life after all its all about carbon footprint these days
    And I for one don’t believe flying stuff in from all around the world night and day is cleaner than lorries delivering produce in to cites from the farms around the UK used
    To do. After all if it isn’t in season then tough.

  73. Lynne permalink
    November 4, 2015

    These photos are amazing giving an amazing insight into the life of the markets. As said in another post. My 5th Great Grandfather JOhn Forbes was a gardiner and then a Greengrocer in Spitalfields in 1770 to 1788. He died in the markets but how I do not know. He and his wife Hannah lived in the Markets and their daughter Ann was charged with the theft of 10 yards of cotton and originally sentenced to death which was thankfully commuted to transportation of Botany Bay. She arrived in 1788.

  74. November 10, 2015

    I am new subscriber, and was initially drawn to this blog due to the vintage Dickens-like images, etc. Am enjoying every one of the posts, regardless of topic — this is a wonderful look inside an unknown-to-me world. I currently live in the Hudson River Valley in New York State. However, years ago, my husband and I were part of the so-called Urban Pioneer Movement in New York City, and moved into raw space in Lower Manhattan, and rehabilitated an historic building. We lived in an area, later named Tribeca, that was rightfully called “The Washington Market”. The wide cobbled streets, the vast warehouses, the overhangs and loading docks — when we moved there in 1978 they echoed with the past voices of the purveyors, merchants, and workers who “worked the Market”; perhaps very similar to the markets portrayed in these wonderful photos. Throughout the next ten years, we were involved with the “land marking” process that assured that the historic buildings would be preserved….and although the region became too pricey and too “fou-fou” for us, we felt like we had lived there at the very BEST time. Here’s to the great cities of the world, and the people who make them unique. (and the artists who capture their vitality during late-night photo sessions!)

  75. Ron liss permalink
    December 8, 2015

    Does anyone know the names Shepherds or the Kennys that worked in spitalfields market 50s and 60s they were my relations

  76. cliff permalink
    December 28, 2015

    Hi Ron,
    Used to work with Charlie Kenny in the 60’s…any relation?

  77. Paul Todd permalink
    January 24, 2016

    Great photos of Spitalfields that bring back so many memories from the early 50s when my dad worked for A.C. Edwards who had a stand at the market selling veg grown on their farm at Aldborough Hatch near Barkingside. I used to go with him on many occasions to the market and I was fascinated by the noise, smells and general bustle of the place. There were many very poor people living in the area and they would sometimes come round and beg for food. I remember going to visit the yard of a Costermonger who lived nearby and it was really amazing with a Mulberry tree amongst all the clutter. Perhaps someone knows who it was?

  78. marlene permalink
    January 29, 2016

    i used to go with my dad in the early sixties from somerset up to the markets in london in the old commer truck delivering swedes and other veg i loved every thing about it even learnt to rope and sheet the truck and i would get on the back and pull the sacks to my dad who would stack them .I was about 8 years old around about no fork lifts or pallets then

  79. Bristow permalink
    March 5, 2016

    Does anyone remember the bristow brothers Tommy and Lenny .believe Tommy worked on marshal and masters Lenny had greengrocer shops

  80. Nicholas Keeble permalink
    April 1, 2016

    Just wonderful. Imagine lighting a bonfire in Brushfield Street tonight: you’d be arrested!

  81. Bill Haynes permalink
    April 16, 2016

    The person “John Lyons” that is referred to maybe the rather wayward playboy son of the auctioneer of Gun Street – Joe Lyons. I remember Lou Hyams very well, we was always calling into our office in the Fruit Exchange and was indeed the coconut king especially for the Goose Fair in Nottingham. He always had his son (Barry I think)with him. Saw Barry in south London late 1960’s in a suped up Ford Anglia with a huge engine fitted. Mr Mrs Chamtob had a warehouse in Brushfield Street next to the original warehouse of Santiago Neuhoffer where Herbert Stein and his son Clive Stein and Clive the salesman worked before they moved over the annex in lamb Street. (There’s a wonderful b&w David Baily photo of Brushfield St 1963… Around 1960 all the big agents had tea boys running around the auctions and the wholesale market…great fun and wonderful training to learn the business we taught about every fruit, veg and salad by our experienced boss….most tea boys left the business as teenagers as the hours were long 4am until 4pm for the busy agents…£4 a week. We were responsible to inspect produce before it was sent up north to very tricky / difficult clients so we had to get it right ! It was my job to go onto every stand in the market to see what each wholesaler had to offer each morning…got to know most of the serious players in the business from a young age. Harry Scott has been mentioned…is that the Harry Scott who ran AW Sharpley in the 1960’s ?

  82. Vanessa Chadwick permalink
    July 17, 2016

    These photos brought back many fun memories of living in one of the flats above the Spitalfields Market from 1983 to 1995 during which time my daughter was born and raised there until she was 11 years old. I remember the lorries going through the arches next to my daughter’s bedroom at night and having to have double glazing put on the windows of her bedroom so she could sleep! We loved living there, meeting some of the market traders, getting free melons and other fruit occasionally. It was a unique place to live and the photos brought it all back. Thank you for that. So very sad it has turned into the soul less place it is today. Thank you.

  83. Harry Levine permalink
    July 26, 2016

    Hi Melvyn

    Are you the same Melvyn Hyams from Edgware??


  84. Melvyn Scott permalink
    September 3, 2016

    Hi Harry, Yes I am, changed our name to Scott some years ago. How are you?

  85. Colin Wheeler permalink
    October 26, 2016

    I Worked at the old market site for the last two years it was open. I was at Aberdeen and Stanton as a stand hand. Ronnie Stanton was my boss and true to form I can say I was the last man physically working on the closing day. Had half a dozen photographers snsppimg away. Would love to find some photos of the stand and myself. I have 2 sons and my stories would have more neaning with some pictures. So anyone git any ideas?

  86. Neil kelly permalink
    November 16, 2016

    Just found this site the top plc the guy with the cup of tea is/was jimmy Newman he had a guy who worked with him leather les the guy with the boxes on his shoulder was Norman shepherd he was our porter 5foot nothing utterly fearless heart of a lion happy memories

  87. Lesley Lee permalink
    February 9, 2017

    My uncle Bert Lambert, known as Uncle, had a banana importing business in the market. I remember he used to wear a sheepskin coat and one of the Russian hats. He died aged 103 about 35 years ago. I remember going there once to pick out a kitten. Never got any bananas.

  88. Laine Bridge permalink
    March 9, 2017

    This page is amazing! My grandad Sidney Lyons (nick name Pie Pie) and my great grandad Mark Lyons both worked at the market. Sidney Lyons ran the business Universal Import Fruit Co Ltd, 55B, Fruit Exchange, Brushfield Street, Spitalfields from the early 60’s to the late 70’s. I know very little about my grandfathers, so if any one has any information or photos of it would be greatly appreciated!

  89. March 17, 2017

    Found this site when looking at another blog site I follow.
    My dad had a veggie stall in Ridley Road, Dalston all his life, took it over from his mother and step-dad. His own father was killed at age 38 at the Somme.
    He would come to Spitalfields every Monday morning to buy produce to sell on his stall for the week. When I was old enough I sometimes went with him, what an experience! The sounds, and sights are memorable to this day. I also remember the bartering that went on, dad would trade fresh veg for meat at a butchers nearby.
    So sad to see these old traditions disappear.

  90. Linda permalink
    May 12, 2017

    My dad Joe Dove worked at the market, so did my brother also Joe. We always had plenty of fruit and an enormous Christmas tree that touched the ceiling. I was a bit young, but I loved the Christmas parties and the presents we got were great. Brings back so many memories.

  91. Dr Brian Lascelles permalink
    July 15, 2017

    Have just read though all the blogs on Spitalfields Market and the names of the businesses bring back lots of memories . As a GP at 4 Spital Squre , I used to get a regular supply of injured hands etc cut or squashed in the process of loading etc . Does anyone have any stories about the Market Garage ? Any contacts of A J Hutchinson , a fine figure of a man and very nice too , followed by his sons latterly .

  92. billy hurst permalink
    November 11, 2017

    Hi, just reading some of the messages, I started as an empty boy ithink it was called Ernest Hammonds their stand for the empty bushels was in the flower market. Miss a lot of my old friends drinking in the gun after work. I wonder if any one can remember Johnny Davey, worked for arnolds opposite the cage, another really good mate David Gittings. My dad got me in the market he was a lorry driver for potato firm Lambert Bros (ubby Hurst} Really good times but could be hard work,hundreds of other people to many to mention. Thanks.

  93. Gary Hillier permalink
    December 1, 2017

    I remember going to the fields in the 70s, great atmosphere & people, anyone remember leny the box, he bought the 30 pounders & dutch tray, & Dave the loader who loaded various greengroers trucks

  94. Paul permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Could someone please tell me where I can view these photos that the two photographers took my family and myself used this market for 90 years …..dashwood …..’bill toddy’
    Many thanks

  95. Clive Heard permalink
    April 21, 2018

    Can anyone tell me if there really was a P Heard and Son in the Market. I have purchased a fruit box printed with my family name in it but can’t find anything on the web to assert aim if it’s true. Thank you. Son of Peter Heard.

  96. Richard Williams permalink
    August 21, 2018

    I loved this market !
    Use to buy all my fruit n veg from 1977 – 1990 had stalls on Harlow market
    Went by the name of Williams of Harlow
    Used to park up in there he Cadge ! Have brandy coffee in a the Gun at 6 am
    Few I remember is David glutman
    A may , Marsh mushrooms , bobs cafe opposite the gun
    Starnes , Hilliard, kemsley, Reynolds, worman, williams (lenny.
    John off of Starnes , Dennis porter for marsh , mike and Ron brothers who worked for glutman , Earnie brown porter for glutman !
    Freddie moor greengrocer and the bullons! Ikey bullon!
    So many

  97. geoffrey arnold permalink
    August 27, 2018

    hi thanks for posting this great site takes me back to great days I delivered potatoes for Russell and sons potatoe merchants me and my brother inlaw both worked for this company and were delivering to spitafields most nights .The porters were the best blokes you could wish for and we got to know them well proper Englishmen.Im now in my 70s so thanks for the memories

  98. September 10, 2018

    Does anybody remember Harold, Dave or Martin Hill who were stall holders in Wood Green. Any stories etc would be great to hear.
    Dave Hill jnr

  99. September 14, 2018

    I used to work for one of the Tyler brothers (of which two ran fruit and vegetable businesses and brought their supplies mainly from Spitalfields in the 70s and 80s).Brian Tyler (known as Butch) was the brother I worked for and as a 17 year old I used to accompany Butch to Spitalfields 3-4 times a week. It was a real eye-opener for me arriving at the market coming straight down the A10 from Hertfordshire at 3 in the morning then waiting for the market to open before going round with Butch to buy the goods. After we would go an have the best cooked breakfast in the market cafe and then wait for the porters to bring out the goods. He had two 8 ton Bedfords which we hand loaded and then drove back up the A10 to the shop and the market. Butch I think was originally from Tottenham but had moved out in the 70s and set up a potato business which he expanded into a shop and a very busy fruit and vegetable stall. I was not aware that the market had closed as I had moved abroad and only knew of the closure some years ago. Does anyone remember Butch Tyler or his brother Tel, (Terry)? If so please feel free to comment.

  100. Hilary O'Connell (Conway) permalink
    December 27, 2018

    What a fascinating site. Does anyone remember my family, started out as Thos.Cohen & sons and then changed to Thomas Conway. We were on the Central Avenue. There was Thomas (Tom), Stan (my dad), Sid,(Flower Market.) Later my brother David and my cousin Brian joined the firm. I remember going up on a Saturday and my father Stan telling the porters not to swear in front of me. One of them did and he was sent packing! I loved being in the cash booth. Also going to the cafe for the bacon sandwiches! I also remember the nuns coming at the end of the day for any produce left over. They were always given something. Any memories of my family would be gratefully received.
    Many thanks.

  101. Richard Williams permalink
    December 28, 2018

    Hillary I remember David Conway
    And a big built bloke who could speak Spanish a salesman called Brian
    Very outspoken lol!
    I remember David Conway! A gentleman I was only about 12 at the time it was my dad Eric Williams who used to buy off of David and Brian!
    Would like to know if they are ok

  102. Hilary O'Connell (Conway) permalink
    January 7, 2019

    Thanks for getting back to me Richard. I am afraid they both died, Brian many years ago but my brother David only four years ago. Yes, Brian was a big man always outspoken but with a big smile, didn’t know he spoke Spanish though. My brother was always the gentleman, took after my dad. I hope you are all well. Isn’t it interesting to have memories jogged. All the best, Hilary

  103. Dave Freeman permalink
    March 6, 2019

    I used to work for G.H.Grist & Sons wholesale Greengrocers in Maidstone…once a week we travelled to Spitafields market at 3 am to buy Friut & Veg…Spuds…everything you could think of..I was the lorry drivers my job was to stay with the 10 ton truck and wait for the Barrow boys to appear with the veg that had been ordered.

    This was in the 1950s….but treasure these memories


  104. Pam Waller permalink
    April 4, 2019

    My Uncle George and Auntie Edna ran a pub in Spitalfields but I can’t remember the name. It was in the heart of the market. Would have been 1950’s. Any one know?

  105. MARK SIGGERS permalink
    October 30, 2019

    Found this site after checking the web. Fascinating stories about the old market which I used to
    visit helping my grandfather and uncle when they bought fruit and veg for their shops back in
    Hornchurch in the sixties and seventies. Only 15 or so then, I used to take stuff back to lorry on the hand carts, just small loads of boxes. Grandad was known as Charlie Wright though real name was Kyle, used Heards, Russells and May. Not sure, but guess he had used the market since before the
    Second War. Certainly heard my first ” strong ” language there ! And remember the cafe fry-ups too.
    As a postscript, years later was working on the Broadgate development and had the chance to wander round the market the last week it was open, with strong memories. Does aqnyone else remember the old coinage, or tokens, all odd shapes and marked up with shillings and pence ?
    Great site,

  106. April 1, 2020

    I remember John Lyons, son of Joe, 60/70’s
    Would be keen to get in touch again if anyone out there knows what happened to him
    I am in Australia

  107. April 13, 2020

    My family had a greengrocers shop in South Kensington Buy-Rite fruit stores. We went to the “Fields” 6 days a week from the mid 50s to 1990 when we sold the Business. I have many fond memories. Our pitch where we parked our Lorry was in Bell Lane , our Cart Minder was Wally
    Whose famous saying was “ you can’t park there “ I was the 3rd generation that went to Spitalfields, my Grandmother had a stall down the Lane ( Pettycoat) Lane. We used to go into a cafe in Cobb street Benny Berman’s with his wife Kitty , Bagels and coffee , then we would go back to the Lorry to see what “ Turns” had come out and who needed chasing. I remember when the first fork lift arrived in 1972 it revolutionised the market. Where ad before a team of porters would take all day to unload a 40 footer 1 Guy with a fork lift would do it in 30 minutes.
    The porters were such characters, And the loads that they used to put on those barrows , one was a poet Charlie Bogart , he used to say thane worked on the smallest firm in the market
    It was called R.FINCH ? Danny Popeye , Danny Foley , he was the foreman on Percy Dalton
    It was a hard life but the products that we sold are never to be seen again , The rubbish on sale now in supermarkets is taken for granted by a generation that doesn’t know any better.
    The Guy on the phone was Davey Jenkins , he had 2 Brothers in the Market and a Nephew.
    So lovely to read the comments and see the pictures would love to see more, only just found this site.

  108. Kate permalink
    September 25, 2020

    I used to go to Spitalfields in 1972 with my dad who used to buy fruit and veg for the Brixton Food Cooperative in Railton Rd, Brixton. We used to drive there (leaving Brixton at 5am) in a milk float (I have no idea how he got a milk float – he was an architect!) with our dog, a beautiful golden retriever called Mrs. Mrs followed by dad at ‘heel’ but she used to get distracted by the lovely smells and old food on the floor. When my dad lost sight of her he would shout at the top of his voice “Mrs!!!” and all the women on the market floor would turn their heads round. I used to be very embarrassed. But as Mrs appeared from under a stall, tail wagging and tongue hanging out, everyone would reach down to stroke her as she bounded back to my dad who would instruct her to “Heel”. It was very cold and dark in the mornings driving across London at 5 miles an hour in a milk float, but I was 8 years old and thought it was very exciting.

  109. michael edward hardie permalink
    December 19, 2021

    my wife used to walk through the market every day to school.
    peabody buildings in commercial street to sir john cass aldgate

  110. January 21, 2023

    Hi Hilary O’Connell (Conway)

    We have an original wooden Thomas Conway Spitalfields crate at home, but I have no idea how old it is or what it might have contained. Any info would be much appreciated!

    Many thanks
    Hannah x

  111. David Russell permalink
    April 2, 2023

    Bill Haynes
    I used to work For J&J Lyon’s Gun street
    Starting there in 1961 straight from school I was booking in boy
    This is we’re I meat my wife she was switchboard operator in 1962
    And we are still together now 56 years off marriage
    I remember John Lyon’s and he was a bit of a playboy if I remember rightly he had a mg sports car
    We visited Spitalfields last Saturday to relive our memories Percy dalton’s sign still above his shop on corner great to see how the place is thriving now

  112. April 5, 2023

    Hi David Russell. I’m very interested in your time with J &J Lyons. I am a distant relative of Julius/Joseph /John Lyons and am in the process of researching their fascinating lives. If you are willing, I would be keen to get in contact with you.

  113. Hilary O'Connell permalink
    June 29, 2023

    Hi Hannah,
    how wonderful to think that a crate from Thomas Conway, Spitalfields still exists.
    The original name of the company was Thomas Cohen & Sons but when my grandfather died his eldest son, Thomas took over. The family name had changed to Conway and the name of the market stand was changed as well. I think it was about the mid 1960’s. I remember that in all the crates were fruit (always shined up to display well) and vegetables best ones at the top. I remember cauliflowers in rows which always looked regimented and delicious. All the market stands were trying to attract the buyers so very important for everything to look tip top!
    Thank you for letting me know. Treasure it.

  114. Vincent Watkins permalink
    July 31, 2023

    I was touched by the stories and have memories of going there as a kid. Did anybody buy mushrooms from George Harlow, 17 Lamb Street?

  115. Phil cook permalink
    December 27, 2023

    I used to go to the market with my dad he would drive a lorry from Southmore the base of Cox and son a whole saler of fruit and veg. We would fill a lorry with good from the markets to take back. On the way to spittlefields the lorry would be loaded with empty crates and boxes which would be collectwd by the stall holders they would then bring our orders to the lorry either with sack trucks of hand carts it was great and I loved going with him even tho it ment skipping school

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