Town mouse on modern London markets

In the mid 19th century, Leather Lane was one of the most crowded markets in London, according to Henry Mayhew. And so it remains: clothes, bags, jewellery, electronic goods, strings of garlic, specialist coffee and bedding plants- it’s difficult to thread your way between the stalls, or to resist the aromas that beguile the nose from the grills of the many food outlets. Office workers throng the street during their lunch hour, interspersed with black-coated traders from nearby Hatton Garden. It’s an image of pulsating modern London.

It’s not for everybody. It’s not, I suspect, for some of the people who live around the market in our own Tachbrook Street. Tachbrook Street market is tiny compared to Leather Lane, but we love it. There’s no better fishmonger to be found, our lives depend on the greengrocer and the butcher is a nonpareil. They’re joined by cake stalls and olive sellers at weekends. But, mid week, pitches are given over to purveyors of fast food. Those appetising sizzles!

They’re nothing but a nuisance if you’re seated by an open window, wishing not to share the fragrance of someone else’s meal. A residents’ meeting recently debated the issue with our councillors. Everybody wanted an ‘old-fashioned’ market, but nobody could say where old-fashioned stallholders can be found.

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