Hoxton Market relaunch celebrates 330-year history of East End institution – but traders fear for its future
- Credit: hackney archives
Hoxton Market celebrated 330 years of trading on Saturday with a relaunch. Emma Bartholomew speaks to traders at the East End market that is older than the USA.
Hoxton Market is one of very few markets that still has an “East End flavour”.
That’s the view of Trevor Tapper, who first set up a fashion stall at the market in Hoxton Street 30 years ago, and who has run a toiletries stall there for the last 14 of those.
The 59-year-old’s memories of Hackney’s markets stretch way back to his youth, when he lived in Stoke Newington and would visit them with his mother aged five or six.
“Ridley Road was rough and ready,” he said.
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“Hoxton was more of an upper-class market. There was more banter.
“At Ridley Road there was rubbish a mile high. Hoxton was always clean and there was a lot of fashion and fruit and veg.
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“You would go there and feel as if you were in the East End, but Ridley Road was like going back to the West Indies with reggae music and the food.”
Trevor who started working on the market aged 14 and had his own stall by the time he was 18.
A relaunch event on Saturday was held to highlight its past and to showcase the market traders’ products.
Hoxton Radio DJs provided music and entertainment, The Hoxton Trust opened its community garden, and guided tours and performances were laid on in Hoxton Hall.
The market actually dates all the way back to the 17th century. But little is known about its more distant history.
Archives indicate it was initially located in Hoxton Square when parcels of land were divided up.
The owners of the long lease, Ball and Brown endeavoured to establish “Hogsden Markett” on their property twice a week for buying and selling “all kinds of flesh, fish and other provisions”.
Trevor remembers when there were 250 stalls and it was the longest street market in Hackney.
But from the ’80s the thriving market began to lose trade with shoppers moving toward supermarkets. Since then, the rise of internet shopping and the removal in 2012 of free parking for the Olympics haven’t helped, either.
On Saturday there were an extra 14 traders on top of the usual 50 stalls, and Trevor admits footfall was higher than usual.
“But whether we can sustain it is another matter,” he said.
Trevor remembers “the olden days” when the market was very family oriented.
“In the past if you were a trader chances are your kids would end up in the market,” he said.
“Nowadays there is no young blood.
“My kids would never dream of working in the market – they can see how hard work it is.”
But he says the customers who have been coming for years keep the spirit of the past alive – and make it all worthwhile.
“When you are a market trader it is like you’re on stage,” he said.
“The customers are the audience and you are putting on your show.
“The same people come along each week. I have little old women there who are 70 or 80 and I know what they are going to buy before they even arrive.
“They look forward to seeing you, and if you aren’t there they worry has something happened. It’s like: ‘Where is he? Has he gone away?’
“It’s like a little family. They have seen me grow from a little single pitch to what I have now and it’s down to them.”
But he added: “I do feel bad the way it’s gone from being so buoyant to so quiet, but I look at it like I’m one of the lucky ones.
“I’m in my twilight years, and I’ve only got another couple of years until retirement. I would like to walk down in a few years and say: ‘I used to be here.’ But if it is still here it won’t be like how I remember it. It’s changing rapidly.”
Hoxton Street Market is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4pm. Saturdays are busiest.