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Phil Maxwell At Watney Market

May 9, 2017
by the gentle author

The markets of the East End tend to divide between those for recreational shopping at weekends and those which are weekday and utilitarian, where people seek the essentials of life at the keenest prices. Both are interesting in different ways, yet the recreational markets tend to get photographed much more than the utilitarian ones, which makes Contributing Photographer Phil Maxwell‘s pictures of Watney Market over the last thirty years especially fascinating.

Once one of the East End’s largest, Watney Market boasted an early branch of Sainsburys in 1881 – selling cheese and salt bacon to dockers – and by 1900 it was claimed there were a hundred stalls and a hundred shops. By 1928, the number of businesses had more than doubled, drawing protests from nearby churches for trading on Sundays. Yet by the sixties it was in decline and Tony Bock photographed the last days of the old market before it was redeveloped into its current form in the eighties.

Watney Market is a pedestrianised precinct now, creating an uninterrupted theatre of human life with a lively immersive atmosphere where locals feel free to linger, enjoying the socialising and banter for which East End markets are justly famous.

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

You may also like to take a look at

Phil Maxwell in Hanbury St

Phil Maxwell in Bethnal Green Rd

Phil Maxwell in Vallance Rd

Phil Maxwell in Sclater St

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell’s Kids On The Street

Phil Maxwell’s East End Cyclists

6 Responses leave one →
  1. May 9, 2017

    Nice photos. I remember the old Watney Street Market, but never went to this one. Valerie

  2. Gary Arber permalink
    May 9, 2017

    What a fantastic set of photos, Phil’s skill comes to the fore, the ability to capture people without drawing their attention, getting true pictures which makes you wonder what they are thinking
    Congratulations Phil
    Gary Arber

  3. Ros permalink
    May 9, 2017

    Yes, terrific photos. All that energy and strength that they convey. I wish daily and utilitarian markets were in better shape but fear they are highly endangered, everywhere. This is a great record Phil. Thanks.

  4. Nora Keily permalink
    May 21, 2017

    The photo of the lady on the bicycle is of my mother. She will be 91 this October. She only gave up cycling a couple of years ago

  5. Mel permalink
    November 9, 2019

    Great photos my mum appears in one of these photos with a shopping trolley in the market sadley she passed away in 2017 may she RIP

    Thanks for sharing

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