Columbia Road Market's Victorian Gates Have Been Restored

By M@ Last edited 19 months ago

Last Updated 01 December 2022

Columbia Road Market's Victorian Gates Have Been Restored
Victorian gates and railings in front of a school
The gates and railings of the old Columbia Road Market before restoration. Image: Heritage of London Trust.

The only surviving piece of an astonishing Victorian building has now been restored.

Columbia Road flower market near Hackney Road is on most people's cultural radar, but how many know about the magnificent building that once graced the site?

The towering Columbia Road Market building in a black and white photo
The railings and gate can be seen on the left.

This is the original Columbia Market, a towering Gothic creation built in the 1860s under the initiative and purse of Angela Burdett-Coutts. Where today we see an Instagrammable jumble of buckets and barrows in the open air, the soaring Victorian building housed 400 food stalls indoors, with a tower, gatehouse, quadrangle and cloister walks thrown in. It was a cathedral of groceries.

Sadly, the market only lasted 20 years, when it was overtaken by competitors with better rail connections. The building hung around much longer as warehousing and workshop space, but was finally demolished in 1958.

The site is now occupied mostly by housing, but one small remnant can be found at the western end of Columbia Road. Here, fronting the Columbia Market Nursery School, are the old gateposts and railings to the market.

A school with old gates and railings. A red bike whizzes past in foreground
The gates before restoration. Image: Heritage of London Trust

The surviving pieces had fallen into a sorry state and the lanterns had been lost for over 70 years. Happily, the structures have now been restored by Heritage of London Trust, thanks to a £15,000 grant. The Ironmongers Company also gave £3,180, with an additional £10,000 from Tower Hamlets Council.

The restored gates of Columbia Market
The restored gates, with new lamps in place. Image: Heritage of London Trust.

The project included the restoration of the Victorian lanterns which will light the western end of the street all year round.

A crowd stands before the restored gates
Heritage of London Trust, representatives from Tower Hamlets Council with pupils from Columbia Market Nursery School & Hillyfields Primary School stand in front of the restored gates. Image: Heritage of London Trust.

This article was updated on 1 December 2022 to reflect the completed restoration.