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?
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.
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 project included the restoration of the Victorian lanterns which will light the western end of the street all year round.
This article was updated on 1 December 2022 to reflect the completed restoration.