Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Executive summary by darmansjah

George Gladwell, trader Columbia Road Flower Market

WALKING through Columbia Road Market early on a Sunday morning, you can’t help but appreciate the ritual verbal ding-dong of a great London Market. ‘Three bunches for a fiver –cheap enough to give to someone you don’t like,’ says one stallholder, chucking a box of flower towards a punter waiting with hands outstretched. ‘So cheap you could stick them on your mother-in-law’ grave’ cries another.

Halfway down this East London street, crammed with colours, scents and stems, is the stall run by 83-year-old George Galdwell, who has been working at the market since 1949. ‘The secret to the banter,’ he explains, ‘is making people smile. If you can make people laugh, you’ll do alright.’

No matter what the weather, it’s always spring on Sundays at Columbia Road. There’s been a market here since the days when cattle traders would march their herds down this road from London Fields to Smithfields. The arrival of the Jewish community in the 19th century saw the trading day shift to Sundays, which meant hat vendors could pick up the leftover flowers from the Saturday market at Covent Garden, stack them high and sell them cheap.

Behind the stalls, the independent shops and cafes are an integral part of the market’s magic. There little art galleries, jewelers and shops selling antiques. Turn off at Ezra Street and there’s a maze of cobbled streets bursting with the wares of the area’s creative community – woven baskets, handmade trinkets and vintage clothes, alongside freshly shucked oyster and a three-man folk band busking sea shanties. Far from the tourist squeeze of the markets in Borough and Portobello, this little quarter of London comes into bloom every weekend – and the flowers are just the start of it.

Columbia Road Flower Market, E2; columbiaroad.info



This covered market is one of London’s best foodie secrets – an array of independent cafes and restaurants mingling with fruit and vegetable stalls (Coldharbour Ln, SW9; facebook.com/brixvill).


Visitors browse for antiques on a Friday, some arriving at dawn to unearth the best treasures (SE16; bermodnseysquare.co.uk).

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