We have dug out some images of Roman Road Market in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s from our local archive library. These and many other images of streets of Bow are freely available at Tower Hamlets Local History and Archives. There are some groovy images of women wearing horn-rimmed glasses and hurrying to do the weekly shop. You will see that the piles of rubbish on the Roman today are a long-established feature on our road. Scroll through and let the nostalgia begin.
Roman Road Market began as early as 1843, when it was illegal ‘but withstood several attempts to close it down’. It was recorded as a fully fledged market in 1887 by Booth, who toured the area with the local policeman and reported that ‘Roman Road…is one of the great market streets in London. Things to be bought of every sort, even patent leather shoes. Some demand for good quality as well as for cheapness’. The market is the heart of Bow, and ‘going down the Roman’ has been a tradition for generations.
The market used to be open for long hours: there are oral accounts of trading going on until 10 pm well into the 20th century. Market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but shops are open all week. The Old Ford and Bow Traders and Shopkeepers Union was inaugurated in 1910 to promote the welfare of costermongers and traders as well as those they lived alongside, and there have been traders groups ever since.
Photographs courtesy of Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives with special thanks to photographers Mrs C. Ely, Mrs H. Bazalgette, Robert Anthony, Kenneth Newman, F. Holingbery and the Borough Architect and Planning Department.