The East End of London is a fascinating place to explore – history abounds all over the place! Around every street corner you’ll find decrepit looking buildings juxtaposed with upmarket modern flats and offices. The Spitalfields area has long been associated with the rag trade and there are so many shops and markets in the area it’s hard to choose which one to go to. Old Spitalfields Market on Commercial Street is open several days a week including an antique market on Thursdays (see here for further info) but we were heading off on this particular Sunday morning to explore one of our daughter, Mlle’s favourite places, the famous Brick Lane Market. En route we passed through the curiously named Frying Pan Alley, weaved our way through the street stalls of the Sunday clothing and bric-a-brac market at Petticoat Lane (actually held in Middlesex Street) and went past Toynbee Hall. The latter houses the charity of the same name set up by Church Of England curate Samuel Barnett and his wife, Henrietta, in 1884 to address the appalling poverty in London’s East End.
It certainly helped having Mlle’s local knowledge as by the time we arrived in Brick Lane there were so many people milling around, traders selling street food, shops advertising vinyl records, clothing, furniture etc that it was somewhat overwhelming. Monsieur Le Chic posed for a couple of photos and then headed off at high speed to White Hart Lane for his football game.
Brick Lane is actually made up of several different markets both inside and outdoors. Some are housed in the buildings of the Old Truman Brewery including Mlle’s particular favourite the Backyard Market. Stepping inside was a welcome sanctuary from the hustle and bustle in the streets! There were a myriad of stalls and although it was busy, the atmosphere was more leisurely and tranquil than outside. We were so engrossed for the next hour or so wandering round that I forgot to take many photos. The Backyard Market has an emphasis on artisanal crafts – there were stalls selling lovely jewellery, beautiful prints, clothing, accessories and hand made soaps and essential oils. In another building next door we found an emporium with all manner of china, bric-a brac and antique furniture.
Before heading off to catch some last minute bargains at the Colombia Road Flower Market (see last week’s post here), we just had time to stop off at another Mlle favourite, the Brick Lane Bookshop at 166 Brick Lane. This place is an absolute gem – we could have spent hours here browsing through their wonderful book collection! An independent book store it stocks a wide variety of books – the classics, poetry, reference books, travel, childrens’ books and the list goes on….! I immersed myself in the local history section – if I hadn’t been mindful of airline baggage allowances I could easily have come away with a dozen or more books. Mlle with no such restrictions added to her collection – she makes a point of buying a book every time she comes here. I couldn’t come away completely empty handed though – I bought a pocket guide Volume 3 of London’s Hidden Walks (just need to find Volumes 1 and 2 now!). Highly recommend popping into the Brick Lane Bookshop if you’re in the area!
Wandering round the markets was tiring work and by mid afternoon we were in need of some refreshments! Following “Mlle’s guided tour” again, we headed off to a gorgeous little spot tucked away off the beaten track – more about that next week!
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