A painting of Broadway Market, Hackney, London

16 Nov 2 Comments

This painting is available to buy here as a limited edition print.

If any East London market tells a story of steady gentrification of the area it is Broadway Market in Hackney.

It was first opened in the 1890’s to serve the local population who lived in the newly built Victorian terraces, many of these iconic dwellings still surround the area. It was also handy for the boat traffic that still plied Regent’s Canal at the southern end.

This all went on pretty well for 70 years or so. Even the rigorous attention of the Luftwaffe during the Blitz didn’t put the EastEnders off their beloved market, it was packed every week, and no one wanted to change anything because there simply wasn’t much there worth changing. Not worth anything then at least.

The big change in Broadway Market

Around the mid 1960’s to the mid 70’s shopping habits began to change. There was a national shift towards supermarkets. Added to that, the traditional EastEnders began to find greater contentment in the bossom of Essex, and promptly moved there. Southend and Basildon is where you will find many of them today.

By the early 90’s many of the shops were abandoned, one shop keeper described it as ‘war torn Beirut’. The street looked derelict, and only the hardy, the optimistic and the desperate hung on. And some did hang on.

The fight back

As the 90’s progressed, however, property prices began to climb in London at a expediential rate. The result being that North London areas such as Islington became out of the price range for even a reasonably well off couple without children. So they began to move to the traditional working class areas of The East End. And I have to say now, I was one of them.

As this exodus progressed East, the demand for property increased and the prices began to climb here too.

On a positive note, the market had a new lease of life. The new residents wanted fresh fruit and veg from local suppliers, and a butcher who knew one end of a pig from the other. All good news for Broadway Market, and it all began to thrive again.

drawing of a ice cream seller in Broadway market London

The hangers on

For those locals who managed to stick out the tough days, things were about to get tougher.

In 2005, Hackney Council got into financial issues and sold off many of the properties in the street to property developers to help balance the books again. These new landlords either evicted the tenants or raised the rents beyond the range of many of the current tenants’ ability to pay.

Tension between the new and old communities ensued and it is still there today.

a drawing of shopers in Broadway market

No real happy ending

Broadway Market is a fine market to visit and has a great atmosphere on Saturdays. Also the Market Café which is featured here is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. A great view of the canal too. This is not just because of ‘new money’. Any market throughout time which is well used will generate its own vital energy, it is in the human DNA.

Here though, property prices and rents are still going up in a crazy manner, and this is the real underlying cause why these groups of people are at each others’ throats.

Ten years after the big sell off of 2005, even the so called ‘yuppies’ are really struggling to make ends meet, having to work all hours to simply pay the bills in a modest East London house. One can only imagine what it is like for the indigenous population. There are very few real winners.

For some reason, we now culturally see our houses as ‘investments’ and ‘ladders’ rather than ‘homes to live in’ as I feel we should. I have no answer to that.

A drawing of Broadway market, London

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