Flower markets have been a feature of London life for centuries, however in the past fifty years they have sadly declined.
Thankfully you can still get a taste of the delights of such markets by visiting Columbia Road Flower Market in East London which is only open on Sundays.
There has been a Columbia Market since 1869, the original Columbia Road flower market began as a Saturday trading market. It was moved to Sunday, by Act of Parliament, in order to accommodate the local Jewish traders. The market was popular with traders from other flower markets who could sell their leftover stock .
The market declined after the Second World War until the 1960s, however in recent years it has become very popular and becomes very busy later in the day.
The market operates every Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm. Traders arrive in early morning and sell a wide range of plants, bedding plants, shrubs, bulbs and freshly cut flowers at very
The market also has shops selling a variety of goods and there are coffee shops, cafes and the occasional street performers.
You can always tell when you are near the market as people wander past with armfuls of flowers and plants. The narrow streets do get very crowded but the market has an atmosphere all of its own and the flower displays are attractive at any time of the year.
One of our occasional excursions on a Sunday morning is walk down Brick Lane, we often begin at the Columbia Road flower market and then immerse ourselves in the various delights of Brick Lane.
East London has been the location of waves of immigration over the centuries and a walk down the Lane gives plenty of reminders of its diverse past.
Brick Lane gets it names from the brick and tile manufacture in the area that began in the 15th century. Brewing was another industry that came to Brick Lane before 1680, one of the most famous brewers was Joseph Truman whose family to establish the Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane.
In the 17th century, French Huguenots bought their weaving skills to Spitalfields, they were followed by Irish immigrants and Ashkenazi Jews in the 19th century and early 20th century. In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis became the major group of immigrants especially from the Greater Sylhet region. Nicknamed ‘Banglatown’, sections of Brick Lane are known for the numerous curry houses that populate the streets.
So what is so special about Brick Lane on a Sunday? Well it is noisy, busy and chaotic which is always the sign of a good market. Street performers entertain the crowds to enhance the vibrant and lively atmosphere. The street art is some of the best in London, even Banksy has been known to daub his paint on the walls of Brick Lane.
Food from all around the world permeates the air and there are plenty of shops and stores to hunt for those unusual bargains.
The Rough Trade store is great for music lovers, up and coming designers can be found all over market and there is plenty of space to sit down and watch the world go by.
Brick Lane is a place where the past and present combine in a number of fascinating ways and illustrates the way how different waves of immigration create a cultural mix that creates a lasting legacy.