Wednesday, 28 August 2013


The "Broad Way" is the wide thoroughfare down which in the 1600s East Anglian herders drove flocks of sheep from their final grazing lands at London Fields to Slaughter Lane (the Brick Lane abattoir) to feed the city of London. A market and a pub sprang up where the route crosses the Regent's Park Canal: the pub is The Cat and Mutton ("cat" is an old word for "barge", though others say it is a corruption of "cattle"); the market is Broadway Market, one of the oldest chartered markets in London.  To underline the agricultural origins of the area, Sheep Lane still runs parallel to the Broadway.
After flourishing for centuries, Broadway Market fell into disrepair in the 1980s; unloved and unlovely, it was considered ripe for re-development by Hackney Council at the start of this century. Plans to demolish parts of the street were met with protests and resistance, documented in Emily James' film, The Battle for Broadway Market, and by a determination to save this ancient London institution.
 Today's vibrant Saturday Market started as a community action project in 2004 to raise funds for local schools, the St Joseph's Hospice and other charities, as well as to regenerate the area in response to the threat of re-development.  It caught the wave of the changing demographic in east London, and it is flocks of young professionals, dressed in their finest weekend gear, that now stroll from London Fields to the Cat and Mutton.
In keeping with tradition, it is still a food market, though now rather more eclectic, artisanal and organic than the old fruit and veg stalls. The olive oil stall above gives an insight into the new market, as does the Vietnamese ca phe stall beyond.
While by no means a hard and fast rule, the canal end of the market is the place for vintage clothing rails, old vinyl, prints and books.  The London Fields end usually starts with the juice stall and meanders through a range of food stalls offering locally sourced and produced food as well as cooked dishes from around the globe.
The success of the new market has meant discussion of plans to extend its area and perhaps to open on Sundays as well. If there are protests now they are about the gentrification of the area. 
The shops that line Broadway Market are also well worth exploring. There are plenty of bars and cafes on either side of the stalls to rehydrate or relax after the exertions of Friday night and Saturday morning. Designer clothes shops jostle with an excellent bookshop; Fin and Flounder sells very good fish and The Buen Ayre Restaurant specialises in Argentinian beef. And F Cooke's eel and pie shop (est: 1900 and now run by Fred's grandson, Bob), all green tiles and marble surfaces, stands as a reminder of former days while also doing a roaring trade with the new inhabitants of Broadway Market.

No comments:

Post a Comment