[Click on images to enlarge them. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Hathi Trust and The University of Michigan Library and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. George P. Landow]

Columbia Market, Bethnal-Green, built by Miss Burdett-Coutts. “The buildings are substantially constructed of yellow brick, with Portland-stone cornices and copings, and terra-cotta mouldings; the roofs are of green slate. Mr. H. A. Darbishire is the architect, and Messrs. W. Cubitt and Co. are the builders.” Source: Illustrated London News (1 May 1869): 440, 444-45. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

The handsome and commodious market-place which Miss Burdett Coutts has erected adjoining her set of model dwellings for working-class families, in Bethnal-green, has this week been opened. The beneficent objects Miss Coutts has in view in establishing the market are to supply the surrounding poor with wholesome food at a fair rate; to bring the producer and consumer into closer communication with each other; and to promote habits of industry and thrift among the humblest class of traders. To secure these objects it is intended that the wholesale dealers shall be selected from those who have already established a position and character for respectability in other markets; that the shops shall be occupied by farmers or their agents, who will be their own salesmen, and thus free their customers from the penalties inflicted by their dealing with tho middleman; and, lastly, that the costermongers and hawkers shall have the option either of selling in the open market-square or of hiring their barrows and carts from the market stores upon such terms as will secure to them a better profit than that which they now receive on their hard day’s work.

Another object was considered desirable — namely, the provision of better lodgings for City clerks, who complain, witlx reason, that while model dwellings are provided in various parts of London for the working classes, they are still left to the discomforts and expenses of inferior lodgings, far away from their daily occupation.

The situation of Columbia-square and Columbia Market, as the buildings of Miss Coutts are named, is near the top of Shoreditch, by St. Leonard’s Church, opposite the eastern end of Old-street, where Kingsland-road and Hackney-road diverge from each other. The rnorket stands between New-street and Crabtree-row, east of Shoreditch, and close to the church. Those two thoroughfares bound it on the north and south, and two private roads connected with them are its limits on the east and west. The space thus inclosed is nearly square, and covers about two acres.

The plan of the market consists of four blocks of buildings, with arcades, surrounding an open quadrangle. The north side is occupied by the market-hall, 104 ft. in length by 50 ft. in width, the corridors giving access to the quadrangle from New-street, with a yard behind, and the staircases leading to vaults in the basement. This side is 160 ft. long, and so is the south side, fronting Crabtree-row, which presents a gate-house, three stories high, with a lofty ornamental archway, market offices, and two arcades, extending right and left, for greengrocers and other small dealers to display their wares. The buildings which occupy the east and west sides of the quadrangle are similar in design, and are each 210 ft. long by 45 ft. wide. They each comprise six shops and two wings, flanking a central archway leading to the quadrangle.

The shops are four stories high. Their accommodation consists of kitchen, cellar, store, and closets, in the basement; shop, parlour or office, and private entrance, on the ground floor; and sitting-room and four bed-rooms on tho two stories above. They are intended for first-class dealers. The wings are four stories high, exclusive of their basements. One wing is occupied as a tavern, and the others are divided into residences for clerks and tenants of a middle class. Each dwelling occupies a separate story, approached by a common staircase; and contains parlour, kitchen, scullery, store, closets, and four bed-rooms. The dwellings in the east building are called “Georgina-gardens;” those in the west building, “Angela-gardens.” The former look over Columbia-square; the latter over an ornamental plantation of plane-trees and flowering shrubs. The central archway, which leads to the quadrangle, has stores and cellars in its basement and a suite of rooms above, intended, like those in the wings, for tenants of a middling class. The third or topmost story is carried up as a tower and contains large filtering-cisterns, which supply all the buildings with water.

The quadrangle has an area of 14,000 superficial feet, pared with blue granite, divided by lines of red granite into spaces 6 ft. square, which are to be the stations for costermongers. In the centre is a lamp, surrounded by four granite basins, with hydrants for washing; there is a fountain under each arcade. The market-hall is divided into seven bays by clustered Aberdeen granite pillars, with bronze capitals and bands, supporting the timber roof, which is 60 ft. high. The floor of the hall has an area of 2600 superficial feet; and m the aisles, behind the pillars, are twenty-four small shops, lined with Irish marble, for the sale of meat, fish, and poultry: above are galleries for the sale of flowers and fruit.

The buildings are substantially constructed of yellow brick, with Portland-stone cornices and copings, and terra-cotta mouldings; the roofs are of green slate. Mr. H. A. Darbishire is the architect, and Messrs. W. Cubitt and Co. are the builders.

The Opening of Columbia Market

The public and formal opening of this magnificent building, adjacent to the model dwellings in Columbia Square, recently provided by the generosity of Miss Burdett Cootts, at a cost of £170,000 altogether, for the accommodation of the poor and populous district eastward of Shoreditch, was briefly reported in oar last Number; which contained also two illustrations of the new market-house, with a description of its plan. The Engraving on our front page now represents an incident in tho proceedings on Wednesday week—the Archbishop of Canterbury addressing the people from the platform on the quadrangle of the market-house. There was an immense assembly, filling not only the market itself, but all the streets around it; the situation, as was explained in our last, being close to St. Leonard's Church, at the north end of Shoreditch, where Hackney-road branches off. The general company who filled the hiill and the galleries in it (where the religious service afterwards took place) began to arrive as early as two o’clock, and were received at the chief entrance to the hall from the north, by Miss Coutts’s committee for managing tho market, consisting of Mr. B. C. Johnson, Mr. Stuart Johnson, Mr. John Hassard, Mr. Henry A. Darbishire, Captain Gardiner, and Mr. Gerald B. Young, each of whom wore blue and white ribbons, being the old electioneering colours of the late Sir Francis Burdett (Miss Contis’s father) in the memorable contents for Westminster. Lieut.-Col. Thomson and 300 of the Tower Hamlets Volunteers kept the ground within the market-hall and square. Miss Coutts, accompanied by Mrs. Brown and the Right Hon. John and Mrs. Parker, arrived shortly before three o’dock, and was received with most enthusiastic cheers. The Duchess of Cambridge, with Prince and Princess Tack, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, the Duke of Wellington, the of Salisbury, the Earl of Harrowby, Earl Grey, Lard Houghton, Lord Enfield, Lord Redesdale, the Marquis of Lorn, the Duchess of Argyll, Argyll, Lady Augusta Stanley, Mr. Hastings Russell, Mr. Sackville Russell, Mrs. Tait, &., honoured Miss Coutts by being present: also the Lord Mayor, with Mr. Sheriff Cotton and Mr. Sheriff Hutton, Sir William Bodkin, and the clergy of the parish, as well as the Dean and Canons of Westminster.

As soon as Miss Coutts had taken her seat in the centre of the quadrangle, addresses were presented to her first from the workmen on the buildings, next from the tradesmen of the market, and lastly from the members of her own committee. A deputation of young girls then waited on Miss Coutts and presented her with an exquisite bouquet made of feather flowers. After this the Archbishop of Canterbury addreasod the crowd in the quadrangle, and in brief and simple language dwelt upon tho benefits which Miss Coutts had conferred upon the neighbourhood, not only by this munificent gift of her market, but by her model lodging-houses, by her sewing-school, and by all the efforts she had made and was still making year after year to better the condition of the poor of Bethnal-green. His Grace expressed his satisfaction that Miss Coutts had never forgotten that London was “her home” and the centre of her property. A procession was formed, which passed round the building; and everywhere, wherever a glimpse of Miss Coutts could be seen, she was cheered till the large quadrangle echoed again. On their return to the hall, prayers were offered up by the Bishop of London and hymns sung; and then Miss Coutts, accompanied only by her committee, returned to the platform in the square, and in turn, from the four sides of it, declared the market open, amid the enthusiastic cheers of the people. This completed the ceremony, and the public were admitted to listen to the music of the band of the H division of police, and that of the Coldstream Guards, conducted by Mr. F. Godfrey, After eight o'clock the whole of the buildings wore brilliantly illuminated with coloured lamps, which task was intrusted to Messrs. Defries. The lines of the architecture were followed with care throughout, and the colours of the lamps were so skilfully blended that the whole quadrangle when lighted up bad a charming effect. The ceremony from first to last was eminently euccessftd, and in its enthusiasm was quite an exception to the usual routine.

The opening of Columbia Market,  built by Miss Burdett-Coutts: the Archbishop of Canterbury Speaking

The opening of Columbia Market, built by Miss Burdett-Coutts: the Archbishop of Canterbury Speaking. Source: Illustrated London News (8 May 1869): 469.

Related material


“Columbia Market, Bethnal Green.” Illustrated London News (1 May 1869): 440-41, 444-46.

“The Opening Columbia Market.” Illustrated London News(6 May 1869): 470

Last modified 30 November 2015