The history of Chapel Market

Islington’s Chapel Market officially dates back to the 1860s but it’s likely they were serving pie and mash there long before. It’s now traditionally considered a home to butchers, bakers and cheesemongers.

The first handful of food shops and non-retail businesses opened in 1841, including a tradesmen and a copperplate printer. But the street remained predominantly residential.

The first indication that market stall holders were moving in came during 1844. A man who was repairing the roof at no.26 mentioned a woman ‘who keeps a fruit stall opposite the house from which he fell’.

Then in 1863, a doctor in no.19 complained of a butcher’s stall set up daily opposite his house. By 1876 clothes sellers were setting up pitches.

The market became a staple trading spot in Islington such that in 1879 it was officially designated as an area for a street market.

 Islington Farmers’ Market relocated to the stretch of road in 2010. Credit Fin Fahey
Islington Farmers’ Market relocated to the stretch of road in 2010. Credit Fin Fahey

In 1881 the street was home to 31 shops and 150 barrows – the pushcarts used by traders. By that same year the tradition of Sunday trading was well-established.

The market continued to expand, and not only for stalls. In 1882, John James Sainsbury opened the first branch of Sainsbury’s at number 48. Within a few years three more opened, one as their first branch to specialise in poultry and game, giving Chapel Market its place in the history of British shopping.

By 1893 the street was home to 68 stalls: 30 for drapery, 23 for vegetables, 12 for meat or flowers and nine for fish, according to a survey of London Markets. It was designated as one of the two largest markets in the area by the 1890s.

In 1936 Islington Borough Council changed the street’s name from ‘Chapel Street’ to ‘Chapel Market’.

Musicians recognised the vibrancy of the market that continues to exist today. In 1951, folk singer Bert Lloyd wrote: ‘The eel man chinks a spoon against a basin. And, above all the human noises, from the record stalls rise the steel-stringed blatter of ‘Shotgun Boogie’…”

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Traditional vendors can still be found today: M.Manze’s, a Pie and Mash vendor, which was first established in 1902, remains a favourite for locals.

New ones continue to pop up: the Islington Farmers’ Market, held every Sunday, relocated to the stretch of road in 2010.

The market street, now a Conservation Area under the Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme, is open everyday except Monday and has a capacity for 224 stalls. It continues through history as a vibrant, traditional market.

Feature image credit: David Holt