great places to visit off the beaten path.
In 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.
History: 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.
Today: 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.