Big changes are afoot at Greenwich Market. Isobel Diamond finds out what it will mean for the many long-standing traders and how the developments will improve the visitor experience 

Greenwich Market, ensconced among the historic buildings of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, attracts both tourists and locals with its old-world, quirky style. A throng of food, arts and craft stalls and independent boutiques, it’s a home-from-home for designer-makers and creative entrepreneurs.  

Beautiful and ancient it is, but many retailers and traders agree that it needs revitalising and extending to ensure it continues to thrive. Begun, firstly, as a traditional food market in the 1800s and still remaining in the original building, it opened in its current guise, as a crafts market, 28 years ago.

Exciting new plans proposed by the market owners, Greenwich Hospital, aim to improve the facilities for traders and shoppers alike. ‘It’s a lovely market, full of charm but it does need tidying up’, says Isaac Lilos, who runs Arty Globe with his partner, designer Hartwig Braun, and has been based here for the past six years.

The enhancements, due for completion in 2016, have been designed by architects and urban planners Barr Gazetas – who also revamped Peninsula Square, the contemporary public space outside the O2. The restoration includes a new public space and pavilion in Fry’s Court, currently a service yard, enabling food stalls to extend outside in busy periods. The area will also host community events.


A new glass covering for the roof is part of the plan to increase daylight in Greenwich Market

The restoration and extension of buildings along Durnford Street will create new retail spaces, providing opportunities for fledgling businesses. A new glass covering for the roof is part of the plan, which will increase daylight and improve ventilation. The new will utilise the existing iron frame as a nod to the market’s heritage. This is vital restoration work as a number of stallholders, including jewellery maker, Ali Paton, say the current roof leaks and ‘lets in rain’.

The cobblestone floor will be restored and relayed, improving access and drainage. Les Grayson, who has sold clocks and watches on his stall for 28 years and made the wooden clock adjoined to the current ceiling beams to mark the Market’s 25th anniversary, says: ‘redoing the stones will help, they’re uneven and difficult to walk on’.

The proposed plans will mean that trade is affected for every stall and shop for three months, while the work is carried out in sections over an 18-month period. This is, unsurprisingly, a concern for small businesses. Kurt Wick, one of the longest-standing stallholders, has been selling leather wallets and bags here for 28 years. ‘The disruption could cause a lot of problems for traders,’ says Wick, who believes that Greenwich is ‘the best market in London’.


Greenwich Market’s restoration includes a new public space and pavilion in Fry’s Court

‘Like anyone who has a business,’ says Arty Globe’s Isaac, ‘I’m concerned about the short-term effects, but the roof needs improving and there’s no way round that.’

Lara Boyle, a Greenwich trader for 10 years, sells baby bibs and accessories in her shop Beauty and the Bib. She loves the Market because ‘it’s an incubator for new ideas and entrepreneurs’ and she welcomes the developments because ‘they’re sympathetic and in keeping with the heritage’. She is aware that ‘there will be serious loss of short-term trade, but the market management have dealt with it sensitively and we’re in it together. It’s a team thing’.

Gillie Bexson, Head of Property at Greenwich Hospital, who first instigated the redevelopment, says, ‘We want to preserve the character and atmosphere of the market and its unique range of shops and stalls while encouraging new visitors to come here from across London and the world.’

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