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Columbia Market gates

Restoration of Columbia Market Gates

Bethnal Green expanded in the 18th century, as London’s working population overflowed from Spitalfields and Shoreditch. By the mid-19th century its streets were so overcrowded many were living in extreme poverty. Philanthropists were attracted to the area. Key amongst these was Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814 – 1906), friend of Dickens and in 1837 the wealthiest woman in England.

Hoping to support local traders, Burdett-Coutts built a spectacular covered market in Columbia Road between 1866 & 1868, including 400 stalls, market hall, tall central tower, gatehouse, quadrangle and cloister walks, at a cost of £200,000. But with no good railway connection and too much competition from established markets such as Spitalfields and Billingsgate, the market closed in 1885. After acquisition by the LCC in 1915 the buildings were used as workshops and warehouses. The entire Columbia Market complex was demolished in 1958.

The only survival from the original market is the gate, railings and gate piers which now front Columbia Market Nursery School – itself a listed school dating from the 1930s. HOLT gave a grant of £15,000 towards the full restoration of the gates and railings, including the restoration of the original Victorian lanterns over the gates and the project was completed in 2022.

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