Petticoat Lane Market

Charles Booth on Petticoat Lane
Contributed by laura on Sept. 4, 2016

Charles Booth published a highly colourful description of Petticoat Lane in the 1880s: "The neighbourhood of old Petticoat Lane on Sunday is one of the wonders of London, a medley of strange sights, strange sounds, and strange smells. Streets crowded so as to be thoroughfares no longer, and lined with a double or treble row of hand-barrows, set fast with empty cases, so as to assume the guise of market stalls. Here and there a cart may have been drawn in, but the horse has gone and the tilt is used as a rostrum whence the salesmen with stentorian voices cry their wares, vying with each other in introducing to the surrounding crowd their cheap garments, smart braces, sham jewellery, or patent medicines. Those who have something showy, noisily push their trade, while the modest merit of the utterly cheap makes its silent appeal from the lower stalls, on which are to be found a heterogeneous collection of such things as cotton sheeting, American cloth for furniture covers, old clothes, worn-out boots, damaged lamps, chipped china shepherdesses, rusty locks, and rubbish indescribable. Many, perhaps most, things of the 'silent cheap' sort are bought in the way of business; old clothes to renovate, old boots to translate, hinges and door-handles to be furbished up again. Such things cannot look too bad, for the buyer may then persuade himself that he has a bargain unsuspected by the seller. Other stalls supply daily wants - fish is sold in large quantities - vegetables and fruit - queer cakes and outlandish bread. Except as regards these daily wants, the Jew is the seller, and the Gentile the buyer; Petticoat Lane is the exchange of the Jew, but the lounge of the Christian."1


  1. Charles Booth, ed., Life and Labour of the People in London. Vol. 1: East, Central and South London, London and New York, 1892, pp. 66-7 

Petticoat Lane and Tubby Isaacs' jellied eel stall, 1940s
Contributed by eric on Nov. 1, 2016

Memories of Eric Shorter, b. 1936

Another of our regular week-end outings was to Petticoat Lane at its original site in Middlesex Street. I don’t remember why we went: mother rarely shopped for anything, and the crowds of people were suffocating, and there were places where as a small lad I was bothered about being crushed. It was common for me and mum to get separated because of the pressure of the crowds.

Petticoat Lane Market, looking north from the corners of Aldgate High Street (left) and Whitechapel High Street, a still from the 1955 film A Kid for Two Farthings

But at the top of Petticoat Lane, at its junction with Aldgate High Street was Tubby Isaacs' jellied eel stall. He was always there, and his customers seemed to discard their eel vertebrae on to the pavement.

Solly Gritzman, or 'Young Tubby Isaacs', who took over the jellied eel stall after Tubby departed for the US in 1938, seen at his stall in the 1968 BBC film Georgia Brown: Who Are The Cockneys Now?

Lanterns and Smoked Salmon at Petticoat Lane
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London on June 3, 2017

Jackie remembers Petticoat Lane in the 1960s:

I was born in the Marie Celeste Ward at the Royal London. I went to Harry Gosling School. As a kid I remember that when it got dark at Petticoat Lane all the lanterns came out on the stalls, they were hung outside. Definitely on the weekends. I'd go with my father and I remember the street was lit as we'd pick up oranges. The produce was seasonal, so we'd only get some fruits at certain times of year. There were shoe shops, one very famous shop was Mossi Marks' on the corner of Wentworth St and Toynbee St, all the Jewish community knew that shop. It sold smoked salmon. We ate a lot of smoked salmon. I brought my kids in there and we'd have a chat and the shopkeeper would give us samples of all sorts of different types of salmon. It was sliced paper thin. There was another shop called Kossof's, a Jewish bakery, in Petticoat Market (they had another two branches elsewhere in the East End). Their jam doughnuts were delicious, my son loved them.

Down the Lane in the early 1960s
Contributed by patricia on July 5, 2017

We used to go to Petticoat Lane on Sundays to shop. When we became teenagers we went more often and met friends and hung out there. We went to The Lane mostly to shop for food but also we looked at the stalls at the clothes, etc. My mother worked at a dress-manufacturing factory owned by my uncle, which was situated in the Lane. Two of my aunts also worked there and my much older cousin. The factory moved a couple of times, but it was always 'down the Lane'. I would visit there often as a kid and tried to help out. During the week the Lane was quieter without the Sunday crowds and I would prefer going then.There was a huge Jewish population around Whitechapel when I was growing up, so many of the food shops in the Lane and in Whitechapel catered to us. Around the early or mid 1960s the Indian population increased around Brick Lane, where they opened shops and restaurants.

Daniel Mendoza, boxer
Contributed by Maureen on July 31, 2017

Daniel Mendoza the boxer came from Petticoat Lane and later lived in a house in Paradise Row, Bethnal Green. He was the great great grandfather of Peter Sellers.

Memories of A Kid for Two Farthings (1955) being filmed in Whitechapel
Contributed by Survey of London

Goulston Street
Contributed by tamara

Shop on Wentworth Street
Contributed by tamara

Shop on Wentworth Street
Contributed by tamara

Shop on Wentworth Street
Contributed by tamara

Leyden Street
Contributed by tamara

Petticoat Lane market in February 2014

This clear amateur footage is a snapshot of Petticoat Lane Sunday market on 16 February 2014, showing Wentworth Street, Middlesex Street and finally the south end of Goulston Street, with the market-stall storage portion at the north end of the 1960s Cromlech House which was demolished in 2016.

Contributed by Aileen Reid on Sept. 19, 2016

Petticoat Lane in the 1960s

This amateur colour footage from the early 1960s shows the extent then of Petticoat Lane market, with shots of Wentworth Street, Goulston Street and New Goulston Street, as well as Middlesex Street, which is usually identified with "Petticoat Lane"

Contributed by Aileen Reid on Sept. 19, 2016

Petticoat Lane market at the beginning of the 20th century

From the British Film Institute archive, silent (of course) footage of Petticoat Lane market more than 100 years ago. Not much architectural context but the scene at the beginning pans west along the north side of New Goulston Street, with Davis Mansions (with its distinctive pedimented doorways) in the background, past Reuben Isaacs' "eating house" at 1 New Goulston Street to the corner with Middlesex Street and a view along the surviving buildings at 52 to 72 Middlesex Street. Source: Post Office Directories

Contributed by Aileen Reid on Sept. 19, 2016

The sounds of Petticoat Lane c. 2010

This sound recording made around 2010 reveals that though they have changed, and there are fewer of them than in the past, street trader cries are still to be heard in Petticoat Lane

Contributed by Aileen Reid on Sept. 20, 2016