Page 37 - MarketTimesFebruary2020
P. 37

 Few markets have undergone such dramatic changes as Spitalfields in London’s East End has over just a few decades. Now the world- famous destination market is at the beating heart of a transformed community, with two separate markets blending the old with the new. Nicola Gould visits one of them, Spitalfields Traders Market, which is a hub of creativity and diversity
 Old Spitalfields in the heart of East London is a world in its own right, with a vibrant, modern beating heart and an old soul rooted in history.
It comprises two markets packed with creative, arty businesses and start-ups — a total of two million square feet of space including offices let out to top city firms, trendy shops and restaurants, and public realm.
And underpinning the entire enterprise is a commitment to the original Spitalfields community to ensure they benefit from the facilities which have become a world- famous attraction and a hub for the creative, arty people who have made this corner of Tower Hamlets their home.
The Spitalfields story began centuries ago. Granted its charter in 1682, the market flourished throughout the 18th and 19th centuries when the burgeoning population fuelled the need for more fresh
fruit and vegetables.
In 1875, a former market porter called
Robert Horner bought a leasehold interest in the site and built a new covered market behind a terrace of dwellings known as the Horner Buildings.
The Corporation of London acquired the market in 1920 and it was extended in 1927. But as the years passed and the city became more congested with traffic, Spitalfields was no longer viable as a wholesale market because of its central location.
In the 1980s the decision was made to relocate the wholesale market to Leyton, and the move was completed by the end of 1991. But the future of the Old Spitalfields site, now the responsibility of Spitalfields Development Group (SDG), was uncertain.
By then the property market had slumped and the danger was that the empty Grade I listed building would become derelict, so an agreement was reached to split the
Spitalfields estate in two, with the old building retained as a market and the other half developed.
Eric Reynolds of Urban Space Management, who had set up and run Camden and Greenwich markets, stepped into the breach and launched an interim market in the old market building.
From small beginnings, the old market began to find its feet and today it is a thriving destination market with dozens of traders selling everything from original fashion designs to arts and crafts. Over recent years street food has gained a much stronger foothold in Old Spitalfields Market which is run by Hammersons, but the dynamism and the positive vibe remains.
Meanwhile the world-renowned architect Norman Foster, now Lord Foster, who was responsible for the Gherkin and the rebuilt German Reichstag in Berlin, was commissioned to design the western end.

   35   36   37   38   39