Walthamstow High Street, E17 7LD
Tube/Rail: Walthamstow Central (Victoria)
Many locals claim that this is the longest market in Britain, which is probably an exaggeration given the size of Portobello Market (see page xxx), but it is certainly quite a trek from St James Street to the end of the market at Hoe Street. Many local markets are now facing difficulties with the rise of the supermarkets, but Walthamstow is a rare and wonderful exception. There are many reasons for Walthamstow’s continued success, among them the fact that the wide thoroughfare of Walthamstow High Street has been pedestrianised, making it a natural focal point – as well as a great place for shopping and strolling. The shops in the area complement the market rather than compete with it, with some excellent butchers, fishmongers and continental food retailers.
There are about 500 stalls lining the half mile route of the market selling all kinds of things from groceries to kitchenware and kid’s toys. Although the clothing is not as trendy as that found at Camden Market, there are plenty of stalls selling street fashion at keen prices, including overstocks and slight seconds from High Street brands like River Island, Monsoon and M&S for £5 a garment. Among the many fabric stalls on the market, there’s a particularly good one on the junction with Palmerston Road, offering quality curtain fabric for as little as £3.99 per metre. Another stall, further along, sells Asian and African fabrics at very low prices. Walthamstow is also a good market to visit for kitchenware and household goods with anything from large aluminium pans to kitchen roll at well below usual shop prices.
Walthamstow is also a great place to get fresh fruit and veg with lots of stalls competing for business and plenty of discounted bulk offers like a box of plumb tomatoes for just £3 and three bunches of coriander for only £1. The long standing fish stall is no longer here but there are lots of fish mongers along the strip, all of them offering great value and a wide choice of fishy fare.
Unusual stalls at Walthamstow Market include the CD stall which offers a massive selection of music for just a few quid. CD’s are becoming a thing of the past, but some people have them in their car and for a few quid they can add to their in-car music collection. The market also has two stalls where the name of Dyson is mud, trading as they do in Hoover bags and accessories. For romantics who would rather return to their loved one with flowers than vacuum cleaner accessories, there are several stalls selling cut flowers and one dealing in cheap bedding plants. Among the good deals were large pots of heather or brightly coloured coreoposis for just a few quid a pot. Another unusual feature of the market is the stall specialising in leather goods run by a friendly Polish man, who is happy to repair items and add the occasional hole to his range of great value leather belts.
Walthamstow High Street is an ideal place to visit if you want to see a neighbourhood market still in its prime. Unlike many local markets it’s busy even on a weekday – although Saturday is the best day to go. A good way to approach the market is through the wonderful Springfield Park and Walthamstow Nature Reserve, which will take about 45 minutes, but gives you a soothing dose of nature before the hustle and bustle of the market. At the other end of the market you are about ten minutes from Walthamstow Village and its Saturday market (see page xxx) which is a more gentile market experience and a relaxing way to round off an afternoon shop.
this in a feature taken from our forthcoming book:
by Andrew Kershman