London Unveiled

great places to visit off the beaten path.

Surrey Street Market ~ the oldest in the country

Surrey Street Market sign croydonIn Croydon, Surrey Street Market has traded since 1236 making it the oldest known street market in all of Britain.   But even with this legacy, Mary Portas (aka Mary Queen of Shops) has been brought in to revitalize this historic market that still struggles to capitalize on its potential.  Surrey Street market is only one of 20 or so ‘Portas Pilot’ areas that will benefit from a focused effort to revitalize the community.  Today while fruit and vegetables are still common offerings, a focus on ‘street food’ has made this medieval market worth a visit, and with the likely changes in store for it, keep this market on your list to periodically visit.

Vintage surrey street marketHistory:  While a market may have existed here even earlier, there is documentation of a market being here in 1236.  It was not until 1276 that an official charter was granted for a Wednesday market by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  At that time the medieval market occupied a triangular piece of land bordered by Crown Hill / Church St, Surrey Street and High Street.

Records indicate that the higher ‘High Street’ side had better drainage and was used for corn trading, while the lower ground on the Surrey Street side was for livestock trading – giving clarity to Surrey Street’s original name – Butcher Row (in use until 1834).

In 1314 the charter was amended to allow a Thursday market.  By 1595 the market was being held on Saturday and it continued that way until 1861.  At that time the corn market was shifted to Thursday – though some corn trading continued on Saturdays.  The butter market (held indoors) ended in 1874 and the corn market finally ended in 1907.  After that time market activity shifted to a more general street market.

surrey street market stall croydonToday:  In 1922 the Croydon Corporation took over the market and established it as a daily market (except Sunday).  Further development of the land led to the building of the Grants Entertainment Centre which effectively dominates the old market triangle of land.  Consequently the street trading activity all moved to Surrey Street.  Saturday is still the busiest day.  As mentioned this is a ‘Portas Pilot’ area that will benefit from significant investment.  Currently the growth in the available ‘street food’ here is making it a worthy destination.   Some vendors invest in oil and include Whatle’s Caribbean food, the Faith Wok Chinese Food, Sunny Quinton’s Mexican Ambulance, Toufiz’s Afghan wraps, Lovesome cakes, and Zanylicious… just to name a few.  One planned development is the Surrey Street Learning Kitchen which should allow for the development and training of caterers and catering businesses.



Located: Surrey Street, Croydon.  Operates ~7am – 6pm.

Closest Transit:  From Central London: Train from London Bridge to East Croydon (then short walk).  For those riding the Tramlink exit George Street stop.

27 comments on “Surrey Street Market ~ the oldest in the country

  1. rigmover
    March 11, 2013

    Something else i’ve learnt, thank you.

  2. studentlondon3
    March 11, 2013

    I’ll definitely be paying this a visit, there’s a direct bus to Croydon from Streatham so there really is no excuse!

  3. ilkadickens
    March 11, 2013

    HI – Good news. You won the typographic poster from my blog. Can you contact me please (see contact details on my blog) and let me know your name and address so I can get it sent to you. Sorry couldn’t see contact details on this blog?? Thank you


  4. Mevetra
    March 12, 2013

    This looks great!

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  7. devonium
    March 15, 2013

    love your blog. Coming up to London this weekend, here’s a wild card, any ideas of what to do with kids, girls aged 11 and 9 this Sat? based in Clapham.

      March 15, 2013

      Everything is weather contingent… but if I remember my daughter at that age, shopping and animals were often in demand! Depending on time, Mudchute Farm over near Canary Wharf is one idea. Saturday and Sunday are great street market days – Portobello Road / Notting Hill is popular for good reason (not just antiques, plenty of stalls of clothing and fashion items etc… further up), as is Borough Market (great food) – both of these are on Sat. Columbia Road flower market on Sunday is fun. Close to Clapham a walk in Battersea Park is lovely. If very wet, the BFI is a good place to catch a film and from here a nice walk along the south bank is always enjoyable.

    • If you live in the country and are used to grumpy farmers discouraging the use of rights of way, you’ll love the glorious expanse of public open space that is Clapham Common. Enjoy! You may never wish to go west again.

  8. steffanmh
    March 20, 2013

    I used to work down the road from there and until a couple of years ago when we moved office, went there most lunches to see what street food was on offer. There was a Chinese and a jerk chicken stall, and a number of other more adventurous ones that would typically fold after a month or two. I had no idea it had such a history. I suppose I ought to have read the street sign!

      March 20, 2013

      Thanks for your comment. It will be interesting to see how the focused attention on revitalizing the market goes this year… it’ll give you a reason to return!

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  10. Chris Westcott
    April 3, 2015

    It is worrying but I used to have to shop with my mother in this street market around 60 years ago. May it last forever

  11. miriam heyburn
    April 4, 2015

    As if we haven’t got enough takeaway food in Croydon! And just as we are being exhorted to eat more fruit and veg Mary Portas decides we need Mexican food.

  12. Julie Boxall
    March 8, 2016

    My dad was born in Overtones Yard just off Surrey St. Market in 1912. There was a banana warehouse there at that time.JFK.boxall

  13. Julie Boxall
    March 8, 2016

    My dad was born in Overtones Yard just off Surrey St. Market in 1912. There was a banana warehouse there at that time.

  14. India Taylor Author
    March 9, 2016

    Reblogged this on indiataylorblog.

  15. paulznewpostbox
    March 9, 2016

    Totally love Surrey St market. First went thereas a four/five year old child with my mother (who was taken by her mother!). 25years later I moved to Croyden, lived there for three years and took my own son. Great & fond memories of the stall’s & parrot!
    If you get a chance GO!

  16. Jill
    March 9, 2016

    I am from crystal palace, I now live in Mallorca, last weekend was in croydon visiting , Surrey street was one of the places my husband and I visited brought tears to my eyes my mum loved Surrey street market and did her daily shop there. Although I am happy enough here I miss the hustle and bustle of London life, also there is nothing like our English country side. Suppose you could say after 37 years I,m still homesick.

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  18. David Cracknell
    December 28, 2016

    I was born in Croydon in 1945 and as a kid I walked Surrey Street regularly, my neighbours dad had a key cutting shop there and used to let the fruit traders put their goods in over night. Loved Kennards and the pony ride!!
    David Cracknell

    • Julie Boxall
      December 29, 2016

      Hi, I was born a few roads away from the ABC cinema in West Croydon, where abouts were you born?

  19. Julie Boxall
    December 29, 2016

    My dad was born in Overtons Yard off Surrey Street Market Croydon in 1912 and I was born in West Croydon in 1948. I loved the Market and also Kennards Arcade and the pony ride. Can also remember there were lots of penny (1d) moving puppet machines. Croydon was a great place to grow up back then!

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  21. Karen Judd
    March 31, 2018

    I am now in my 50’s and remember as a young child travelling with my mum from Caterham to Croydon on the 409 or 411 bus to go shopping always used to walk the length of Surrey Street Market and then trudge up the flight of stairs back upto the main road by what was Grants Departmevt Store. Good memories 😊

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This entry was posted on March 10, 2013 by in Croydon, Family Activities, Free Activities, Royal London, Street Markets and tagged , , , .
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