Columbia Road began its life as a pathway along which sheep were driven to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield. Like much of the land in East London it was finally built on to serve the needs of a growing London which resulted from the explosion of Empire during the Victorian era.

It’s had several names over the centuries, but Columbia Road was named in honour of the heiress and philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts, who had not only built Columbia Market (now demolished) but had instituted a Bishopric in British Columbia.

The run of Victorian shops we see today were built during the 1860’s to service the population of the nearby Jesus Hospital Estate.

Apart from providing all the necessities of life, many of the shops were given over to upholstery as an adjunct to the thriving wood trade in the area.

Wood turning and milling factories peppered the area until the late twentieth century. The buildings which house the Fleapit Café and Milagros, being two of the largest.

The Flower market began as a Saturday trading market, but as the Jewish population grew a Sunday market was established.  The Saturday market lapsed, but the Flower market evolved. Initially this serviced the local population many of whose houses have small gardens.

Plants were brought by handcart from nearby market gardens in Hackney and Islington and market pitches were claimed on the day on the blow of a whistle.

The whole area went into a decline in the 1970’s. Indeed demolition was mooted, but the locals fought back and the area and market were saved.

Since the 1980’s the market has grown into one of international repute. Today a wide range of unusual shops complement it, turning the whole area into one of the most interesting shopping experiences to be had anywhere.