Ridley Road – survivor of the Blitz and gentrification

Ridley Road has survived the Blitz during the Second World War, a 1960s threat to build a motorway through it and proposals in the 70s to build a railway station in the road, but its biggest threat today is from gentrification and nearby supermarkets taking business away from its market.

The area was owned by Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London from 1550 to 1553, and the market started in the 1880s, with about 20 stalls clustered at the Kingsland Road end of Ridley Road, and a fair.

Before the Regulation of Street Markets Act in 1927, stallholders would wait for a policeman to blow a whistle and then jostle for the best pitches. By the 1930s, Ridley Road Market was attracting 200 traders on a Saturday, but it was the site of political tension too. In the 1930s, opponents of fascism had regular fights with Nazi Blackshirts, who held meetings at the Kingsland Road end of what was mainly a Jewish market. In 1947, mounted police broke up violent clashes between Fascists and Communists along the road.

Today the market mirrors Hackney’s diverse population, with stalls full of Turkish, Jewish, Asian, African, Caribbean and local goods, from exotic fruit and vegetables to clothes and household wares.

In Stephen Frear’s film Dirty Pretty Things Audrey Tatou’s character, Senay Gelik, lives in a flat overlooking Ridley Road’s street market.

By Katie Gibbons and Nalini Silvathasan

One Response

  1. Janet Byrne October 3, 2021

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