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Why women want to turn historic Petticoat Lane street market into 'Lady Lane' instead

PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:53 11 November 2019

Some of the women stallholders opening up at 'Lady Lane' on November 15. Picture: LBTH

Some of the women stallholders opening up at 'Lady Lane' on November 15. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

The first-ever women-only stallholders' street market is being opened on November 15—in Petticoat Lane, of all paces!

East End's traditional Petticoat Lane street market in its heyday. Picture: Lesley LoveEast End's traditional Petticoat Lane street market in its heyday. Picture: Lesley Love

The Friday market down "The Lane" is being licensed by Tower Hamlets Council to encourage more women traders with a dedicated space in Wentworth Street, part of the historic Petticoat Lane area of Middlesex Street.

"Street markets supremo Ann Sutcliffe said. "But they have traditionally been dominated by men.

"The new 'Lady Lane' market is to inspire women determined to show why anyone can succeed."

The ladies are setting up stalls each Friday between 10am and 3pm to sell crafts, skincare products and jewellery all home-made in the East End. Even the women themselves, who have been through a business training course to help their emerging enterprises, are from the East End.

Women stallholders were even selling down Petticoat Lane 100 years ago. Picture source: Martion KraftWomen stallholders were even selling down Petticoat Lane 100 years ago. Picture source: Martion Kraft

Yet there have always traditionally been women stallholders down "The Lane", around one-in-10 traders.

Even schoolgirls have got in on the act. Youngsters from Bethnal Green's Virginia Primary set up a stall in 2015, to launch a Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership programme with 16 schools to develop enterprise skills.

Petticoat Lane's history goes back to Tudor times, the name coming from selling petticoats and from the fable that "they would steal your petticoat at one end of the market and sell it back to you at the other".

But it was unregulated. Police cars and fire engines were often brought in to disrupt the illegal trading as late as the 1930s.

Schoolgirls from Bethnal Green's Columbia Primarary who set up their own market stall in Petticoat Lane in 2015. Picture: Tony HusseySchoolgirls from Bethnal Green's Columbia Primarary who set up their own market stall in Petticoat Lane in 2015. Picture: Tony Hussey

The authorities finally relented and recognised it as a street market in an Act of Parliament in 1936 with stallholders' rights to sell every Sunday morning, licensed by Stepney borough council.

It was known in Tudor times as 'Hogs Lane', a droving trail for pigs outside the City walls on the boundary with the parish of St Mary Whitechapel, becoming a regular market by 1608 for second-hand clothes and bric-à-brac.

The name changed officially to Middlesex Street in 1830 to mark the boundary between the City and Whitechapel which was part of the old Middlesex County at the time. But the world still knows the East End's famous street market as Petticoat Lane after five centuries. Now they've added "Lady Lane" to its heritage.

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