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Petticoat Lane Market

Postcards and photography

‘The Greatest Sunday Open Air Market in the World. Everything may be bought here, from a Pair of Bootlaces to a Building’

Petticoat Lane (variously spelt Pettycoat Lane, Peticote Lane) is in the modern London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Today, there are some 350 ‘stallholders’ divided over two markets: Middlesex Street Market and Wentworth Street Market. Together they are known as Petticoat Lane.

London has a number of old, traditional markets of which Petticoat Lane is one. Others include Brick Lane, Columbia Road Flower Market and Spitalfields itself. Its name is said to come from the saying ‘they would steal your petticoat at one end of the market and sell it back to you at the other’.

The numerous immigrant waves to London settled in the area long before it became part of London Jewish life from the 1880s. In the early 1660s, there was a Spanish presence. In the late 17th century, the Dutch Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in the Netherlands started arriving. They were famous for their weaving and general textile skills and so the area became well known for manufacturing clothes and as a commercial district for selling textiles.

Jewish immigrants started arriving in significant numbers in the early 1880s. Most of this immigrant wave to London settled in the East End – you can see the extent of the Jewish settlement if you look at the at 1899 map of the Jewish East End. They established a thriving community, converting Huguenot chapels to synagogues, founding relief societies, the Jewish Free School etc. You can see photographs of people waiting outside the School in this History Window.

At the heart of this community were the markets. Traders were able to earn modest livings, often bringing the skills they had with them to Britain. Look at some of the photographs of market traders in the Refugees History Window and compare them to the photographs in this Window of the early 1900s. More substantial businesses started to develop, for example, the caterers E Barnett & Co, or Polly Nathan's Fish Shop.

The East End of London, and Petticoat Lane in particular, is part of the historical memory of London Jewry. If you look now at the Book of Honour of the Jewish contribution to the Great War, you will see many of the London combatants came from this area.

About this Collection

London-based private collector, Adrian Andrusier, has for over 40 years been collecting postcards and postal history of Jewish life especially in the 1890-1940 period. 

Adrian is keen that educational organisations and other not-for-profit bodies freely use the images. Other, unauthorized use and for commercial purposes are not permitted and permission should be obtained in advance from Carla Drahorad at carla.drahorad@btopenworld.com

View the Entire Collection

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London Jews in the First World War - We Were There Too

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